Kevin Pietersen produced a blistering unbeaten 103 to almost single-handedly steer Delhi Daredevils to a five-wicket victory over Deccan Chargers in an Indian Premier league match here on Thursday.
The lanky Pietersen unleashed an array of breathtaking shots as he took the responsibility after his team was struggling at 23 for three to overhaul the target of 158 with five balls to spare at the Feroz Shah Kotla here.
During his sustained onslaught that saw him record his first century and highest score in Twenty20 format, Pietersen slammed a staggering nine sixes and six fours in his 64-ball knock.
The star England batsman was, however, dropped thrice and he ensured that Deccan paid the price for their sloppy fielding.
This was the Daredevils’ fourth win from five matches in even as Deccan suffered their fourth defeat on the trot.
Pietersen finished the match in style, smashing Ankit Sharma over his head for six, which also brought up his century, the second of this edition of IPL.
The highlight of Pietersen’s innings was the three successive sixes off Jean-Paul Duminy and the one against leg-spinner Amit Mishra, which was probably the biggest ever at this venue.
Bowling from the Delhi Gate end, Mishra was smashed straight down the ground by Pietersen, with the ball landing on the top tier of the old pavilion. As the ball disappeared, Sehwag, sitting on the dugout with his team-mates, was seen smiling.
Before that, one of the sixes against Duminy went 98 metres. And moments later, Steyn was hit over long-off for a maximum. Pietersen’s onslaught started after Mishra was introduced into the attack, and there was no looking back after that.
In pursuit of 158, Daredevils lost Naman Ojha as the batsman’s poor run of form continued. Skipper Virender Sehwag, after hitting Veer Pratap Singh straight down the wicket for a boundary, was dismissed by Dale Steyn who induced an edge for Dan Christian to take a simple catch at first slip.
Steyn, in fact, could have had one more to his name had Bharat Chipli not dropped Pietersen at mid-wicket. Pietersen was batting on six when he was offered the life.
Duminy then failed to take a difficult caught and bowled chance when Pietersen was on 68. He got one more life towards the end, just before reaching his century.
The Daredevils soon found themselves in a spot of bother at 23 for three in fifth over with the dismissal of normally calm and composed Mahela Jayawardene who, while trying to hit one over the in-field, looped a catch to his Sri Lankan teammate Kumar Sangakkara at wide mid-off, off the bowling of Dan Christian.
More misery was in store for the Daredevils as Ross Taylor, responding to Pietersen’s call for a risky single, was run out by a direct throw from Shikhar Dhawan. At 65 for six in the 10th over, Daredevils needed someone to hold the innings together and they found their man in Pietersen.
The home side needed 87 runs in the last 10 overs, but as long as Pietersen was at the crease, they were very much in with a chance. KP first flicked Steyn for a boundary through mid-wicket. On and off, he hit a few more of those before launching into a brutal assault, which left the Chargers shocked.
Earlier, Parthiv Patel (45) and Dhawan (45) chipped in with useful contributions as the Chargers managed to post a fighting 157 for eight. The two put on 71 runs for the second wicket in little under seven overs to put the Chargers back on track after the early loss of skipper Kumar Sangakkara.
But Shahbaz Nadeem, who triggered a batting collapse against Mumbai in Daredevils’ last match, did a repeat as the Chargers seemed to have lost the plot in the middle overs.
It was thanks to some effective hitting from Bharat Chipli that lifted the Chargers towards the end after Morne Morkel threatened to run through the line-up with two blows.
Chipli hit three fours and a six during his 17-ball 25.
Morkel finished with impressive figures of three for 23 while Nadeem was even better with three for 16 runs.
Opting to bat, the Chargers were dealt an early blow as they lost Sangakkara in the third over off Morne Morkel. But Dhawan and Patel not only steadied the ship, but also maintained a healthy scoring rate, bringing up the team’s 50 in 36 balls.
Both Dhawan and Patel played some effective shots, particularly on the on side - the two left-handers executed the pull and hook shots quite often and to good effect.
A collapse was, however, waiting to happen, and it was Nadeem once again who triggered it. While the 22-year-old left-arm spinner bowled to a good line and length, he must thank Dhawan for his first wicket.
Living up to his reputation of throwing it all after getting a start, Dhawan went for a needless reverse sweep to be trapped in front of the wicket off Nadeem’s first delivery of the match.
At the other end, Patel was living dangerously as he got three reprieves. Lady luck was on his side, but the pint-sized batsman from Gujarat failed to capitalise.
Nadeem had his second wicket as Patel’s sweep was caught at deep square-leg by Jayawardene. Next to go was Duminy as the South African holed out to the mid-wicket fielder, giving Nadeem his third wicket.
Dan Christian tried to hold the innings together but fell after collecting 19 runs from 21 balls. Morkel then sent back Abhishek Jhunjhunwala and Steyn to make it 134 for seven in the 18th over. In the end, it took a bit of enterprise from Chipli to take the Chargers past 150.