Jaipur: The dramatics of two nights back were conspicuous by their absence, but there was no change in the outcome of the face-off.
At the Feroz Shah Kotla on Sunday, the Delhi Daredevils had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat as Rajasthan Royals imploded in the final overs. On an exhilarating Tuesday at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium, it was largely one-way traffic as the Daredevils cemented their place at the top of the standings with their eighth win from ten matches, surging home with six wickets in hand and 28 deliveries to spare.
For a while, when Ajinkya Rahane and Rahul Dravid were in the midst of another half-century association, the Royals appeared primed for a total that would test the famed Daredevils batting line-up. At 71 without loss midway through the 9th over, the Royals had the perfect base to build on, but an ill-advised reverse sweep by Rahane opened the floodgates.
The unheralded Pawan Negi, a 19-year-old left-arm spinner, was the beneficiary of Rahane’s largesse. Allowed a foot in the door, Negi went on to produce a dream spell of four for 18, his scalps including Australian Shane Watson – playing his first match of IPL V – and the dangerous Brad Hodge.
Without warning, the Royals lost five for 24 and threw away all the advantage of batting first on an excellent batting strip. With batsmen falling around him, Dravid took it upon himself to guide his team to respectability, his measured 57 the highest score in a modest total of 141 for six.
Such is the might of the Delhi batting that they were completely unfazed by the third-ball dismissal of Mahela Jayawardena with not a run on the board. Virender Sehwag fairly pulverised the bowling, smashing five fours in the first three overs and rattling along at breakneck speed even as Kevin Pietersen, far from his best in his final game this season, was happy to play second fiddle.
In the middle of a purple patch, Sehwag became the first batsman to score five Twenty20 half-centuries on the bounce, bringing up his 50 off just 20 deliveries and totally dominating the second-wicket association of 96 with Pietersen. Dravid set aggressive fields in a bid to pick up wickets, but Sehwag was unstoppable, treating the Royals bowling with scant respect to turbo-charge the run chase.
The Daredevils’ fourth straight win consigned the beleaguered Royals to their fourth consecutive defeat, the home side paying a huge price for posting the lowest total in Jaipur in IPL V.