Delhi Daredevils batsmen Kevin Pietersen and Virender Sehwag play against Rajasthan Royals during the IPL match at Sawai Man Singh stadium in Jaipur. HT/Mohd Zakir
They say, in T20 cricket, every ball counts.
Well, some more than others, anyway. The fifth ball of the 10th over of Rajasthan Royals’ innings turned the tide of the match and eventually paved the way for a 137-run target that Delhi Daredevils knocked off with six wickets in hand and plenty to spare at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium here on Tuesday.
At that juncture, the Royals were 87/1, Rahul Dravid was getting the job done at one end, Shane Watson was looking to break free at the other, having bludgeoned one off left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem high and mighty in the previous over. The Royals were primed to post a competitive total on a batting beauty.
Low and straight
Then, it all went wrong. Left-arm spinner Pawan Negi got one to stay low and straighten. Watson went for an expansive swipe, missed the ball completely and saw the delivery uproot his off-stump.
From 87/1, Royals soon slumped to 95/6, with Negi picking up the wickets of Owais Shah and Ashok Menaria in his next over.
He had earlier dismissed opener Ajinkya Rahane to jolt the Royals after a breezy 71-run opening stand between Dravid and Rahane. The unheralded Negi, who'd seen most of the spotlight fixed firmly on Nadeem for much of the season, eventually returned match-winning figures of 4/18.
There was no way back from that position, and despite a defiant 43-ball 57 by Dravid, the Royals could only post 141/6.
Defending a small total against the most formidable batting line-up in the league was going to be an uphill task, but the Royals couldn't have asked for a better start when Ankeet Chavan dismissed Mahela Jayawardene off the third ball of the Daredevils' innings.
The run rivalry
The wicket brought to the middle Kevin Pietersen, and at the other end was Virender Sehwag.
Chills were already running down the bowlers' spines, which intensified with each boundary hit in the duo's 96-run second-wicket stand.
In the ten overs the explosive batsmen were together, they continually tried to outdo the other.
Pietersen would pull a short one to the boundary, Sehwag would spank a short and wide one behind point.
The Englishman would use his feet and dance down to smash a spinner (Brad Hogg) into the stands; Sehwag would arch his back, open the face of his blade and guide a bouncer over third man, and the boundary rope.
Shane Watson finally put an end to the partnership, getting rid of Watson for 36. Kiwi Ross Taylor departed soon after, but the result of the match was beyond any doubt.
Sehwag progressed to 73 off just 38 balls with 12 fours and a six, before Hogg dismissed him, a few runs shy of the target only for Naman Ojha finish off the match with a massive six.