A game that had absolutely nothing riding on it took place in Kanpur on Wednesday night as two teams that have already been eliminated from this season’s Indian Premier League (IPL) faced off. Things have been so bad for Gujarat Lions and Delhi Daredevils that two English players that had returned home to play against Ireland in ODI cricket have decided not to bother coming back. Instead, Sam Billings and Jason Roy will be turning out for Kent and Surrey respectively.
Still, the Gujarat Lions and Delhi Daredevils still needed to get this match finished, so just as when you have to rip a band-aid off a particularly hairy part of your body, the best thing was just to get on with it. In the end, the Daredevils won the game thanks to a brilliant innings from Shreyas Iyer, but it still didn’t really matter beyond player’s pride and the hope of an IPL gig next year. On the evidence of this game, there are few Lions bowlers who can feel comfortable of securing one.
The Lions lost the toss and were put in to bat. On the six previous occasions that they have batted first this season they have lost, all four of their wins thus far this season have come when they have had a chance to chase a target. The reason for this has been their bowling, which anyone who has been watching the Lions this season will be aware is awful. Even a decent total has been chased down with relative ease. The last time these two teams played, the Daredevils chased 209 to win with 15 balls to spare. It was harder work this time, but the result was the same.
Chasing is a more straightforward thing to do in T20 cricket. When you are setting a total you are having to continually reassess. When you walk out to bat you have no idea what a good score is, and as a result you have to think on your feet. When you are chasing you know exactly what is expected of you, and the experienced batting line up of the Lions are then well placed to reach a target — as long as the bowlers haven’t conceded 20 runs too many, something we have seen on more than one occasion this year.
In this match, the Lions started poorly with the bat with Dwayne Smith falling for a run a ball eight. In the Lions’ win over the Kings XI Punjab in their last match, it was Smith’s 74 that allowed them to claim victory. Here he was run out when he sauntering down the other end when he needed to hurry. When Australian pacer Pat Cummins bowled Suresh Raina, the Lions had also lost their leading run-scorer inside the powerplay.
There was a bright and breezy 34 from Ishan Kishan, but when he was gone in the seventh over of the innings the Lions were in real danger of stuttering when setting a target yet again.
Then Aaron Finch came together with Dinesh Karthik and the two men shared an excellent stand worth 92 runs in 9.4 overs to get the Lions up to a very decent 195 for five with Finch finishing on 69 from just 39 balls.
196 is a very difficult target for any team to chase down, even more so for the Daredevils who have been struggling this year and who were without both Billings and Chris Morris who have left on international duties. They would have been looking to breakthrough star Rishabh Pant and their leading run-scorer, Sanju Samson to do the bulk of the run scoring.
Both men went early as the Daredevils found themselves 15 for two in the second over and already in need of someone to kickstart a recovery when Pant was run-out when he daydreamed out of his crease after a big appeal for LBW and Raina did the rest.
That was the first of three run-outs in the Daredevils innings as the Lions fielders started to do the job their bowlers have failed to do — take wickets. The Daredevils seemed to be desperate for singles that weren’t there when there were boundaries available for the taking.
While Iyer was involved in two of those three run-outs, the rest of his batting looked fantastic. The issue was with the top order careering between the stumps like chickens being pursued by a fox the pressure was on the new batsmen that joined Iyer were forced to swing big early on in their innings. It was exactly this that brought Carlos Brathwaite’s brief stay at the crease to an end when he skied a catch of Dhawal Kulkarni.
Despite the wickets, the run rate wasn’t completely out of control, it was just that it was Iyer or bust for the visiting team. The batsman made a career-best 96 that kept his side in this contest all the way until the point where he was bowled in the last over.
In truth if the Lions had a real wicket-taker in their bowling lineup the match would have been won when the ball hit the stumps for the third run-out, instead Iyer nursed his team over the line with the help of the lower order got his team over the line.
The 17th over of the Daredevils’ innings was bowled by James Faulkner and he was battered for 22 runs to bring the required rate down under eight an over. From there it was a simple task for Iyer to guide his side home. The Lions have one match left, for their sake, let's hope they win the toss and bowl first, because the seven times that hasn’t happened this year they have lost badly.
Updated Date: May 11, 2017 11:30 AM