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Delhi humble hosts, win by 8 wickets

Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir lead from the front after bowlers rock Chennai. A report by Anand Vasu.

cricket Updated: May 03, 2008 02:30 IST
Anand Vasu

Virender Sehwag makes batting look unfairly easy. That he is not overawed by the opposition bowler is fair enough, he has scored two Test triple-hundreds. That Sehwag does not worry about the conditions is understandable, he's made runs everywhere from Melbourne to Multan, Bloemfontein to Colombo. What is inhuman composure is Sehwag's ability to be beaten all ends up one ball and smash the next one for six as though nothing happened. It's that more-than-cool attitude that helped Delhi show Chennai the taste of defeat and end up at the top of the IPL table.

Blistering reply

There was no real need for Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir to go hell-for-leather against the new ball with only 171 needed. But the two had walked out deciding to make the most of the powerplay six overs. Makhaya Ntini's IPL debut brought back shades of the recent India-South Africa Test here as Sehwag carved the fourth ball of the innings over third-man for a flat six.

Manpreet Gony suffered twice against Sehwag in his first over, first lofted inside-out over long-off and then cut scorchingly over point. Gambhir, not quite used to playing second fiddle in this format reeled off his own specials, carving the short ball over cover-point and punching the full ball back past the bowler.

The manic onslaught ended in the 12th over, with 115 on the board, and the match half won when Sehwag (71 in 41 balls, 7 fours, 4 sixes) slashed Joginder Sharma straight down Muralitharan's throat at third-man. Gambhir brought up yet another T20 50, and fell soon after, but he had taken Delhi to within 31 runs of victory.

The rest looked like it would be a mere formality, but Chennai fought till the end to make it a close finish. Still, Shikhar Dhawan and AB de Villiers closed the game with an over to spare.

Clever strategy

Sehwag's captaincy has been about keeping things simple and the manner in which he used his best bowlers came off for him. With Matthew Hayden, Michael Hussey and Jacob Oram having left the Chennai team, Mahendra Singh Dhoni was the big threat and Sehwag, unlike in previous matches, held back plenty of overs from Glenn McGrath and Mohammad Asif, his best bowlers, to negate the threat of the opposition's best batsman.

Parthiv Patel and Stephen Fleming began reasonably without creating major flutters but S Vidyut at No. 3 showed what a clean hitter of the ball he can be. A slash over slip, a slap over extra-cover, a fine paddle past the keeper, a top-edged pull over the keeper … and his trademark shot, when he came down the pitch and hit Sehwag into the top tier of the stands at long-off and a chancy yet invaluable half-century had come up.

Dhoni leashed

Dhoni's arrival at the crease prompted Sehwag to return to Asif and McGrath, and the Chennai captain was forced to pull back his usual hyper-charged pace of hitting and protect his wicket. McGrath could not dismiss Dhoni, but bowled a tight over and Asif more than once produced the top edge.

Vidyut (54) tiring, failed to connect cleanly skied McGrath to cover, and when Dhoni failed to get under a delivery from Asif and holed out to long-off, Chennai lost momentum. Albie Morkel, famed for hitting a long ball, teed off a couple of times in the penultimate over, pushing the score on to 169. But it never looked like it would be enough.