Gautam Gambhir's grit made the decisive difference as the skipper scripted Delhi Daredevils' five-wicket victory over Kings XI Punjab in their Indian Premier League match at the PCA Stadium here on Saturday.
Leading the team for the first time in the competition, Gambhir did not let the fall of wickets at regular intervals affect his focus. The left-hander smashed a match-winning 72 before falling in the final over. By then, he had done his job.
Delhi seldom looked comfortable chasing 143 with partnerships failing to bloom for the better part of the innings. Eventually, the clinching factor turned out to be the fifth wicket stand of 61 between Gambhir and Mithun Manhas.
Gambhir's stroke selection and calculated approach stood out today. The Man-Of-the-Match hit a six and nine boundaries in his 54-ball tenure as he never allowed the asking rate to climb up. Manhas, too, did his job admirably with a 24-ball 31 with two boundaries and made sure Delhi got past the finish line.
Sreesanth's twin strike to send back Virender Sehwag and Tillakaratne Dilshan — both falling to well anticipated catches — in the second over of the innings made the host and its supporters optimistic. With the visiting team at 10 for two, the target of 143 had suddenly looked bigger.
Earlier, the host managed to survive a poor start and reached 142 for nine without the customary late flourish, thanks to the right-left combination of Ravi Bopara and and fit-again Irfan Pathan.
After four wickets, including that of skipper Kumar Sangakkara, Yuvraj Singh and Mahela Jayawardene, fell in the space of just five runs and seven deliveries, Bopara and Pathan counter-attacked with a 60-run fifth wicket stand in 7.1 overs.
Bopara's 56 off 48 deliveries, laced with a six and seven boundaries, was instrumental in keeping Kings XI's run-rate high. A pulled six off Maharoof was an early indication of Bopara's intent.
Pathan was effective as he played second fiddle to Bopara. He hit two fours in his 16-ball 21 before his dismissal triggered another collapse — four wickets falling for 12 runs.
The scores: Kings XI Punjab: R. Bopara c Manhas b Yo Mahesh 56, M. Bisla (run out) 2, K. Sangakkara c Sangwan b Maharoof 17, Yuvraj c Gambhir b Maharoof 4, M. Jayawardene c Karthik b Sangwan 0, I. Pathan st. Karthik b Dilshan 21, M. Kaif st. Karthik b Mishra 6, P. Chawla c Maharoof b Nannes 5, R. Powar b Nannes 3, S. Sreesanth (not out) 15, Y. Abdulla (not out) 0; Extras (b-8, w-5): 13; Total (for nine wkts. in 20 overs): 142.
Fall of wickets: 1-5, 2-39, 3-44, 4-44, 5-104, 6-113, 7-113, 8-116, 9-132.
Delhi Daredevils bowling: Nannes 4-0-12-2, Maharoof 4-0-37-2, Sangwan 4-0-32-1, Mishra 4-0-23-1, Yo Mahesh 3-0-23-1, Dilshan 1-0-7-1.
Delhi Daredevils: G. Gambhir c Jayawardene b Pathan 72, V. Sehwag c Jayawardene b Sreesanth 8, T. Dilshan c Bisla b Sreesanth 0, A.B. de Villiers (run out) 7, D. Karthik c Pathan b Abdulla 20, M. Manhas (not out) 31, F. Maharoof (not out) 1; Extras (lb-5, w-2): 7; Total (for five wkts. in 19.5 overs): 146.
Fall of wickets: 1-10, 2-10, 3-45, 4-79, 5-140.
Kings XI Punjab bowling: Pathan 3.5-0-27-1, Sreesanth 4-0-24-2, Abdulla 4-0-30-1, Chawla 4-0-33-0, Yuvraj 3-0-11-0, Powar 1-0-16-0.