NEW DELHI, April 28 (IANS): Gujarat Lions edged out a spirited Delhi Daredevils by one run in a thrilling Indian Premier League (IPL) clash that went right down to the last ball at the Ferozshah Kotla Stadium here on Wednesday.
Chris Morris produced a superb all-round performance for Delhi and almost snatched victory for the hosts before falling short in an exciting last over.
Chasing a competitive target of 173 runs, Delhi seemed to be in trouble after losing early wickets before Morris and his South Africa teammate J.P. Duminy produced a superb comeback.
Morris smashed an unbeaten 82 runs off just 32 balls, entertaining the home crowd with four hits to the ropes and eight towering sixes. The South African all-rounder was effective with the ball as well, returning fairly economical figures of 2/35.
Duminy played a patient knock of 48 runs off 43 balls, hitting three boundaries and a six along the way. He was unlucky to miss out on a half-century and was caught and bowled by Dwayne Bravo after offering an uncharacteristacally poor shot.
Wednesday's victory took the lions to the top of the IPL table with 10 points. The IPL debutants have five wins from the six matches they have played so far. The Daredevils, who suffered their second defeat in five matches, are at the third spot with six points.
Delhi had a rocky start as Dhawal Kulkarni struck the crucial early blows, removing the top three Delhi batsmen in his first two overs. The Mumbai-born pacer eventually finished with figures of 3/19 in his four overs. James Faulkner (1/23) and Dwayne Bravo (1/40) were the other wicket-takers for the Lions.
Delhi opener Sanju Samson made a hash of what should have been an easy flick off his pads to a poor delivery on his legstump by Dhawal Kulkarni. What he did manage was to offer the leading egde to Faulkner at mid-on.
Kulkarni then removed Quinton de Kock and Karun Nair in his next over to leave the Daredevils struggling at 3/16 after four overs.
Duminy and Morris then came together to smash the Delhi bowlers all around the ground. But Duminy's dismissal was the turning point. The young Pawan Negi -- the most expensive Indian player at the IPL auction -- was unable to provide the necessary support to Morris with the hosts needing 29 runs off 17 balls when he came in to bat. But an undaunted Morris continued to produce the big hits.
With the Daredevils needing four runs off the last ball, Bravo came up with an accurate delivery into Morris' blockhole. Morris' swing only carried the ball to Ravindra Jadeja at long-on and the batsmen could only complete two runs much to the disappointment of the home crowd.
Earlier, put into bat by Delhi, Gujarat Lions rode on quick-fire half-centuries from Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith to post 172/6 in their 20 overs.
McCullum plundered 60 runs off a mere 36 balls while Smith raced to 53 off 30 as the duo put together an opening partnership of 112 runs off just 63 deliveries to give the Lions' innings a flying start.
At one stage, the Lions seemed to be heading for a total of around 200 runs. But a remarkable batting collapse that saw Gujarat lose six wickets in the space of just 30 runs broke the scoring momentum.
Leg-spinner Imran Tahir played a crucial role in the Delhi bowlers' fightback with excellent figures of 3/24 in his four overs. South Africa pacer Chris Morris returned a fairly economical 2/35 while his compatriot Jean-Paul Duminy (1/4) bagged a wicket in the only over he bowled.
Smith was finally dismissed when he was trapped leg before by Imran Tahir with one that kept straight after pitching. The West Indies batsman played for the turn, only to see the ball hit him on the pads right on middle and leg.
McCullum followed his opening partner back to the pavilion in the very next over thanks to some strange shot selection. Faced with a slowish full toss from Chris Morris that kept slightly high, the Kiwi veteran attempted a wild cross-batted swing that was neither accurate nor well timed only to lose his stumps.
Morris struck another crucial blow off the last ball of the same over when he got Gujarat captain Suresh Raina with a well directed short pitched delivery. Ravindra Jadeja then fell to Duminy when he misjudged the bounce of one that was slightly wide of off-stump.
Tahir then dismissed Ishan Kishan and Dinesh Karthik off successive deliveries to plunge Gujarat into further trouble. James Faulkner attempted a late fight back with a 13-ball 22 to help the visitors to a competitive total.
Gujarat Lions 172/6 in 20 overs (Brendon McCullum 60, Dwayne Smith 53; Imran Tahir 3/24, Chris Morris 2/35) vs Delhi Daredevils 171/5 in 20 overs (Chris Morris 82 n.o., J.P. Duminy 48; Dhawal Kulkarni 19/3).