New Delhi: The Rajasthan Royals came close to showing that you can win a Twenty20 match on the back of scampered singles and well-placed twos, but Delhi's bowlers stuck to their guns admirably, and held their nerves in a tight finish to squeak home by a run.
The target of 153 was the kind that allowed for a measured approach, but Rajasthan left themselves with too much to do in the last over, off which they needed 12.
Umesh Yadav was handed the ball, and even when Ajinkya Rahane carved a low full toss over point for a timely six, the game was not in the bag. With two needed off the final ball, Yadav slipped a quicker ball past Rahane and wicketkeeper Naman Ojha nailed the stumps with his underarm throw, denying Owais Shah the stolen bye that would have tied the game. (Also see: Match in pics)
The packed Sunday crowd at the Ferozeshah Kotla grew steadily restless through Rajasthan's chase, a bit irritated at the lack of big hitting and perhaps worried that the Royals might have assessed the task at hand perfectly.
Rahane and Rahul Dravid set the tone, picking off the ones and twos with unnerving consistency. Dravid, in visible discomfort and requiring constant rehydration, occasionally made room to drill the ball through cover off the back foot and Rahane waited for the full delivery outside off to play his characteristic whip over mid-on.
Backing their own strengths and choosing not to try and match the more flamboyant Delhi batsmen, Rahane and Dravid added 99 for the first wicket, the only blip along the way coming when a half appeal for caught behind off Irfan Pathan resulted in momentary confusion. Umpire Rod Tucker mistakenly thought Dravid was walking, and when it was clear that the batsman was not, he swiftly reversed his decision.
When Dravid finally fell, thanks to a remarkable bit of outfielding in which Ajit Agarkar kept his balance and cool when running along the rope at long-on to take a catch at full stretch, the seriousness of the situation hit Delhi's bowlers.
The opening stand was worth 99 runs in a ball short of 14 overs. Brad Hodge, sent in at No. 3 to seal the deal, set swiftly to work, clearing the infield just often enough to close the gap between the required and achieved run-rates. When Morne Morkel nailed Hodge in front of the stumps in the penultimate over, the balance swung back towards Delhi, setting up a tantalising final over.
Rahane, who was back in possession of the Orange Cap for most runs scored, ended up unbeaten on a brave 84, but could not get his team across the line.
While Rajasthan almost got away with one batsman doing the lion share of the scoring, the Daredevils were let down by the lack of support for Virender Sehwag at the top of the order. Mahela Jayawardene and Kevin Pietersen managed just 11 between them and it took cameos from Ross Taylor and Naman Ojha to lift Delhi's score in the final overs. Sehwag's 39-ball 63 ensured that Delhi had 152 on the board, which proved to be enough, but only just.