The questions everyone was asking after the toss were: why is the virtually unknown offspinner Sunny Gupta making his IPL debut in Delhi Daredevils’ biggest game of the season and why was purple cap holder Morne Morkel dropped? The questions resonated through the game and will haunt the Daredevils management for long, as one of the biggest tactical goof-ups in IPL history meant another season of dominance at the league stage ended without a win in the playoffs.
M Vijay clubbed a century and Chennai Super Kings took their toll of the weakened Daredevils attack to run up the highest score of the tournament. The decision to leave out Morkel had been based partly on wanting to strengthen an already intimidating batting line-up but the target was too much to ask even of Daredevils’ superstars.
Super Kings came into the competition boasting a batting unit littered with match-winners but they rarely clicked together in the league phase. In the playoffs, though, they have been a transformed side. Two days after mauling Mumbai Indians, their batsmen fired again leaving Daredevils bowlers utterly clueless. Gupta was taken for 47 in his three overs and Varun Aaron conceded 63 in his four, the most expensive figures in IPL history.
Much of the punishment came at the hands of Vijay, who hasn’t had the best of tournaments. A poor run at the start of the season left him with the unwanted distinction of being the only retained Indian player to be dropped in 2012. Super Kings backed him after leaving him out for a few games, and he repaid the faith with a big-match innings that has put them in their third final in a row.
The hammering started in the first over, as Gupta’s first two deliveries were driven to the long-off boundary by Vijay. Normally a player who favours the leg-side, his lofted drives through the off side were the highlight of the innings. Even with Michael Hussey sensibly pushing the ball around and letting Vijay go for the big hits, Super Kings motored to 68 in eight overs.
Hussey fell soon after but by the time Virender Sehwag came on to bowl in the 11th, Vijay was unstoppable. That over kickstarted another phase of heavy scoring: first a six to midwicket that was brilliantly caught by Ross Taylor who stepped on the rope as he landed, then a powerful cut behind backward point for four, followed by a boundary to long-on and a six over cow corner. After that second six, Vijay was at such ease that he was sharing a joke with non-striker Suresh Raina. Two overs of mayhem later, when Vijay safely guided a ball to third man, he was gesticulating in frustration for having taken only a single off the delivery.
Daredevils didn’t help matters with their shoddy catching. Sehwag was awfully leaden-footed to a miscue from Raina to cover while David Warner, possibly their best fielder, grassed MS Dhoni at long-on. The bowling from Daredevils wasn’t particularly poor – there weren’t too many hit-me full tosses or gifted-away deliveries down the leg side – but was merely run-of-the-mill length stuff that was no worry to Super Kings’ marauders. Morne Morkel’s control was sorely missed.
Dhoni and Dwayne Bravo played mini-versions of their powerhouse efforts against Mumbai Indians while Vijay went on to his century, which he celebrated with gusto pointing to the back of his shirt and showing his relief to put an indifferent run firmly behind him.
Facing with a massive target, Daredevils had another surprise in store: for the first time this season, Sehwag didn’t open. Mahela Jayawardene came out at the top of the order and, though he stuck around for a characteristically elegant half-century, the game was virtually done within the fourth over of the chase as both Sehwag and David Warner were dismissed.
Super Kings’ batting may grab all the headlines, but their fielding has also been top-class this season, highlighted by Vijay’s sharp catch to dismiss Warner and then the running take by Hussey to send back Sehwag.
Ross Taylor slogged a couple of sixes over midwicket but his over-reliance on that stroke cost him as he miscued a wide delivery to mid-on. Jayawardene was left with too much to do, and after he was bowled after missing a reverse-sweep, there was no one to stop Daredevils from sliding to the biggest defeat of the season.