OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
New Delhi: The near capacity crowd that thronged the Kotla to cheer the Delhi DareDevils, went back a happy lot as the home team defeated Cape Cobras by 30 runs in the Champions League Twenty20 at the Kotla on Monday.
It was a fine advertisement of the DareDevils’s popularity as the fans cheered their favourite side all through the match, despite knowing that Gautam Gambhir and Co. are already out of the tournament.
The supporters were richly rewarded for their enthusiasm as the DareDevils bowlers dismissed the South Africans for just 84, after the batsmen failed once again, putting up just 114 on the board.
On Wednesday, the all-Australian first semi-final, between New South Wales Blues and Victoria Bushrangers, will be played at the Kotla. Next day, Cape Cobras will take on Trinidad and Tobago in Hyderabad.
Left-arm pacer Dirk Nannes and leg-spinner Amit Mishra were the main architects of this improbable DareDevils victory. Defending a not too impressive score of 114 for six, the two bowlers exploited the favourable conditions and did not allow the Cobras to settle down.
If Nannes and Dilshan started the rout by sending back two Cape Cobras openers — Andrew Puttick and Herschelle Gibbs — with just 17 runs on the board, Mishra broke the visitors’ backbone with a double strike in the 11th over of the innings.
He first had Rory Kleinveldt caught by Owais Shah, and then bowled Jean-Paul Duminy two balls later to bring the Cobras to their knees. From then on, the South African side could never make a comeback.
Put in to bat, the DareDevils were once again a disappointment. Backed by a slow pitch that made batting difficult, the visitors were able to restrict the Delhi team for a low score with some clinical bowling display.
Except for a breezy 26 by Dinesh Karthik, and some quick scoring by Man of the Match Owais Shah (39) towards the end of the innings, there was no firework.
The two DareDevils openers — Gautam Gambhir and Tillekaratne Dilshan — were dismissed early. While Dilshan was castled by one from Rory Kleinveldt that kept low, Gambhir edged one on to his stumps two balls later. Virender Sehwag, who had shown some form, opted to sit out.
Karthik tried to retrieve the position and dispatched Kleinveldt for three consecutive fours. He was, however, run out for no fault of his own as Owais, who came in after Manoj Tiwary’s dismissal, responded poorly to a call for a run that left Karthik stranded in the middle.
DareDevils’ score was lent an element of respectability by Shah, who made amends for his lapse during Karthik's dismissal with some aggression at the death.
While the local team’s batsmen struggled against pace, their spinners turned the tide against the Cobras with three important wickets — Gibbs, JP Duminy and Justin Ontong.
Gambhir, knowing how tricky the pitch was, opted to open the bowling with Dilshan. The turn on offer was evident on his second delivery itself, when he trapped Gibbs in front to one that turned in from outside the off stump.
Duminy, charged with the responsibility of guiding the innings after Davids’ departure, was castled by Mishra, by one that kept extremely low, and Ontong was bowled through the gate, deceived by Dilshan’s flight.
With the pitch behaving as expected — the ball coming on slowly and the bounce uneven — bowlers from both teams stuck to a plan that followed a pattern adopted by other teams at the venue.
But, strangely enough, the flow of each innings was altered by run outs which prevented the possibility of a par-score on this track.
Karthik’s attacking 23 was ended by a typical blunder from his partner Shah, while Henry Davids’ dismissal off a direct hit proved decisive in bringing Delhi back into the game.
Davids had dominated a stand of 27 with Duminy, launching Dilshan into the stands and punching Rajat Bhatia for a boundary, but was found short by a steaming throw from Pradeep Sangwan at short third while responding to a single.
Nannes, who had uprooted Andrew Puttick’s off stump in the fourth over, returned for his second spell and delivered immediately.