Two franchises that have great teams on paper but who have been replete with paper thin performances met in Delhi on Thursday when the Daredevils took on the Gujarat Lions. Both sides had a theoretical chance of making the playoffs, but they both needed a win in this game or they would be eliminated. In the end the Daredevils have kept their hopes alive and for the Lions what could be their final season of IPL cricket has ended in ignominy.
For weeks now everyone who has been watching the struggling Lions has been saying that if their batting can fire, if the excellent players in this lineup can finally perform at the same time, they can score more than 200 in an innings. Finally, with their life in the tournament hanging by the smallest of threads, the Lions did it as they made 208 for seven. It was an awesome total, but in truth they left runs out in the middle. If they hadn’t lost the wickets of Suresh Raina and Dinesh Karthik in the space of five balls, they could have gone on to make 230.
Raina is the leading run-scorer in this year’s IPL and the most successful batsman in the tournament’s history. It looked certain that Virat Kohli would overtake him as the leading IPL run-getter in the tournament’s nine-year history this season, but Kohli has struggled and Raina has kept on keeping on.
The 77 from 43 balls that Raina made against Delhi was not without its good fortune. He was dropped three times in that innings, and if any one of those had been taken the Lions would not have reached 208. In the end he was run out by a direct hit from Kagiso Rabada just when he looked like he would make the most of his luck and go on to a big hundred. Still, he had done his job, it was the middle order that needed to push on from there.
Unfortunately for the Lions, as we have seen all too often in this year’s tournament, they lost wickets just at the point that they should have been looking to really accelerate. It is not often that a team goes at better than 10 runs per over and you still feel that they haven’t done as well as they should have. This was a very flat Kotla pitch.
The early wickets of both Dwayne Smith, who was finally back opening the batting after languishing in the middle order, and Brendon McCullum could have slowed the Lions down but that fine stand of 133 between Karthik and Raina allowed them to set a total that certainly looked competitive. The Lions bowling has been really poor this year, but the Lions had never lost having posted a total this big before.
In the end the Daredevils made a mockery of that target as they made their highest winning total batting second as they brutalised the Lions bowlers with Sanju Samson and Rishabh Pant putting on 143 runs. By the time Samson was caught skying a ball off Faulkner into the deep the run rate was down to a run a ball. From there all that was needed was knocking that ball around.
Pant went on to score a career best 97 as the Daredevils decided to not knock the ball around and just carried on blazing away against a beleaguered Lions attack that had no answers.
The issue for the Lions once again was their bowling. Yes, the batting unit could have scored more runs in their 20 overs, but you should not be losing a game this easily when you have made over 200. At the auction they splashed their cash on signing Jason Roy rather than a potent bowler who could take wickets.
Roy is a brilliant player, and far from a poor signing in principle. But the Lions already had Smith, McCullum and Aaron Finch in their squad. They needed to improve their bowling, not sign a fourth overseas opening batsman. For all the talk of big shots and big bats, wickets are still the main reason why teams win games of T20 cricket and a lack of them is the main reason teams lose.
Basil Thampi went at 10-an-over, the best by any Lions bowler in the match, and he is the one shining light amongst their bowlers this year. He has shown real pace, guile and aggression throughout despite having very little support at the other end. The Lions have used 18 bowlers this season and have not once won a game defending a total. While it has never been harder to bowl second in T20 cricket that is a terrible return from a team that topped the table last season.
The Lions still have four matches to play, and all that is left for them is playing for pride. If they are back next year when Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals return they need to rethink the make up of this squad and sign two or three bowlers that can back up their batting.
Updated Date: May 05, 2017 08:49 AM