Exclusives

It was a case of being so close yet so far for the Delhi Daredevils as they lost an agonizingly close-fought battle against the Rajasthan Royals on Sunday.

As the sun played hide and seek, the Dilli Boys were put into bat at a full capacity Feroz Shah Kotla. And it was our opener Mayank Agarwal who took the attack to the opposition – getting Delhi off to a blazing start, crunching fours and lofting sixes all around. While Agarwal made merry, the young Shreyas Iyer found his feet going at the other end, nudging the ball around, collecting singles.

It was after Agarwal’s wicket, thanks to some smart bowling by Royals’ Pravin Tambe, that Iyer started attacking the bowlers. Iyer fell for 40 at the end of the 11th over, and the crowd were on their feet as Yuvraj Singh came out to take guard.

In his usual swagger, apne munde Yuvi joined forces with captain JP Duminy and put on a 45-run partnership. In the partnership that lasted for about five overs, Yuvraj took everyone on a time machine, reliving some of his vintage best. It was a pity that Yuvi got out trying to hit his third six.

The disappointment in the crowd upon Yuvi’s wicket was well compensated for by a certain Angelo Mathews. Mathews, who was playing in place of Delhi’s star performer from the previous game, Albie Morkel, unleashed some of his best cricketing shots on the Royals’ bowlers. He scored 27 runs off 14 deliveries, hitting as many as three fours and smashing a huge six over long on. After Mathews’ burst, it was Duminy who gave the final push and that took the Daredevils to 184 after a superb final over.

Chasing 185 to win was always going to be a challenging task in a T20 game, but the ground realities at the Kotla suggested otherwise. At the ground where eight out of the last ten T20 games were won while chasing, Royals’ Ajinkya Rahane and Sanju Samson came out on a mission.

While Rahane seemed to be at his sublime best, scoring runs freely, the young Samson fell while trying to slog Mathews, caught at deep midwicket. In almost no time, the Daredevils took control of the match, by picking up quick wickets. From 37/1, the score read 78/4 – Steve Smith, Karun Nair and Stuart Binny, all back in the pavilion.

When it seemed like the game was in the bag for the Daredevils, Rajasthan’s Deepak Hooda played an innings of a lifetime. On the brink of his 20th birthday, Hooda made runs at a strike-rate of 216, scoring a blitzkrieg 54 off just 25 balls. The three fours and four sixes from Hooda’s blade nearly took the game away from the Daredevils, before a magical spell of bowling from Imran Tahir tilted the scales back in favour of the Dilli Boys.

Imran Tahir ended with match figures of 4 for 28, but the job was still to be done. Rajasthan Royals needed 12 to win in the final over, and in a heart-wrenching finish, the Royals snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by scoring a boundary off the final delivery of the game. It was Tim Southee, an unlikely hero, who picked up the winning runs as a jubilant Royals outfit ran on to the field to celebrate.

The Dilli Boys, though, shouldn’t lose heart already. It was a terrific fight from a team that is still finding the perfect combination.

After that narrow loss at Chennai, the Daredevils put up a fantastic show against the Rajasthan Royals, showing spirit and spunk. With still a long way to go in the tournament, it’s only a matter of time till Delhi start winning again. And when they do, people must watch out, there will be sixes!

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