Lions destroy Delhi’s pride to enter final

It's Mine: The Lions did well to defend their score of 139/5

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Durban: Whether or not the Highveld Lions booked their place in the final at the toss should make for an interesting debate, as Delhi Daredevils’ skipper Mahela Jayawardene’s decision to sacrifice his place for David Warner backfired. The Sri Lankan could only watch from the bench as the local club destroyed the last surviving bastion of Indian interest in the 2012 Champions League T20, to win the first semi-final at Kingsmead.

But if Delhi fell flat on their belly, it was only because they played badly. Both Virender Sehwag and David Warner looked up as they played in the air, not a good sign, for when gravity brought the ball down, it was firmly cupped in a pair of South African hands. Their wickets brought Kevin Pietersen and Unmukt Chand to the crease. While KP batted like he owned the ground, his partner was forced to arrest his run flow, with the big bat swing managing only nine singles. With a twitter target to get, the Delhi Daredevils soon showed that they would run out of patience and characters.

With the scoring rate going up, the Lions took pride in celebrating their wickets, with their left-armers getting things right with the ball. Pietersen could only watch as one batsman after the other came and left in a jiffy, bringing up his half-century with Pawan Negi at the other end, a sign that the fortunes of his side rested completely on his shoulders. The pressure only grew as Aaron Phangiso removed Negi for a first-ball duck. And then he cracked.

Chris Morris who had dropped Pietersen earlier, sent down a short delivery, forcing the batsman into a miscued pull shot, that flew into the air on the on side. Lions’ keeper Thami Tsolekile did a fine job running all the way from his post to take the catch. With KP gone, the Daredevils knew that they were driving towards the chequered flag with punctured tyres. They stalled, twenty-two runs short of the target.

In the first inning, Morne Morkel had a couple of things to say to Gulam Bodi when the latter tried to hit him over to the midwicket fence, and this probably hardened the latter’s resolve to stay at the crease. The left-hander, the highest run-getter in the competition, went on to remove his helmet and raise his bat towards the Lions dug out. He flicked, and slog-swept with elan, but to say that he and his fellow batters had an easy time at the crease would be a lie.

There was a lot of breeze, and with the flannels flapping with the wind, it was clear that the bowlers had more than just the bounce for assistance. Umesh Yadav picked up a neat birthday present by pocketing Alviro Petersen, and with de Kock and Pretorius keen to get back under the roof, life wasn’t going to be a breeze for the South African club.

Man-of-the-match Neil McKenzie’s (46) effort at putting together the digits representing  the ‘boundary’ runs, alongside Bodi (50) saw a productive 59-run partnership emerging for the Lions. The right-hander scored ten more than the years he has spent on the planet, with some fine hitting, aided by a good choice of shots and sound anticipation. That he was dropped twice by Delhi’s fielders in the penultimate over, first by Yadav and then by Pietersen, ensured that he played the last ball of the inning.

139/5 would be enough for them to beat a side with as many as nine internationals in its ranks.

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