Delhi Daredevils 120 for 4 (Iyer 70*, Ishwar 2-27) beat Chennai Super Kings 119 for 6 (Zaheer 2-9, Morkel 2-21) by six wickets
An exceptionally disciplined show from the Delhi Daredevils bowlers restricted table-toppers Chennai Super Kings to 119 for 6, to set up a convincing and consolatory six-wicket win on a slightly uneven and sluggish pitch in Raipur. Ironically, Daredevils were without their their top three wicket-takers of the season so far, Imran Tahir, Amit Mishra and Nathan Coulter-Nile, who was excluded for Gurinder Sandhu. Daredevils' chase was later steered with 20 balls to spare by an unbeaten and uncluttered fifty from Shreyas Iyer.
The loss means that Super Kings still haven't technically made it to the playoffs. Even though they are on top with 16 points and a game to go, they could be out on net run rate.
Nothing went Super Kings' way apart from the toss, as Daredevils opened with left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem and Zaheer Khan. The two suffocated Super Kings' destructive openers, who rely on boundaries early on. Nadeem started with a maiden with the help of a few seam-ups and gave no room to Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum; and Zaheer hardly gave them any pace to utilise, bowling a stump-to-stump line. The pressure resulted in McCullum's wicket on the last ball of the frugal Powerplay, which yielded only 16 runs, including 27 dot balls. It was Super Kings' second-worst Powerplay across eight seasons, and the third-worst by any team.
The pressure never allowed Super Kings to breathe on a hot evening. Smith took 12 balls to get off the mark, struggled the most to time the ball, and was trapped lbw for 18 off 24 on Albie Morkel's first ball. For a brief period, it looked like Suresh Raina and Faf du Plessis would rescue their team. Raina rotated the strike from ball one and du Plessis decided to find gaps instead of clearing the boundary on the big ground. But offspinner Jayant Yadav got rid of Raina seven balls after Smith's wicket, which brought the already-struggling MS Dhoni out.
He and du Plessis briefly consolidated the innings, scoring runs off Sandhu and Yuvraj Singh, with a stand of 37 in six overs. But du Plessis' wicket in the 16th over threw Super Kings off track again. Thirteen runs from the next over, off Yuvraj, and 11 off Sandhu in the next helped Super Kings' score past 100 but Zaheer and Sandhu conceded only nine from the last two to keep Daredevils' required run rate to exactly six per over.
Daredevils' chase was uncharacteristically smooth after losing two wickets early on. Even though Iyer struck three fours in the first two overs, Ishwar Pandey, who came in for an ill Ashish Nehra, removed Quinton de Kock and Duminy, for 3 and 6 respectively. An unfazed Iyer avoided any extravagant or risky shots to keep the chase on course. He cashed in on the room offered by Mohit Sharma early and used his feet and played the ball late against the spinners.
Ishwar's first three overs read 3-1-7-2, but his last over, the seventh of the innings, dashed Super Kings' hopes and chances. Yuvraj struck fluent fours on the first and sixth balls, and Iyer unleashed an inside-out drive for six and a beautifully-timed on-drive for four off consecutive deliveries to accumulate 20 from the over.
Super Kings made things worse for themselves when Mohit dropped a high catch of Iyer, on 32 then, wide of deep midwicket off a rare slog. Yuvraj and Iyer scored at least a boundary for next five overs to bring the required run rate to a comfortable four per over. Iyer brought up his fourth fifty of the tournament and even though Yuvraj and Morkel fell to Pawan Negi's successive overs towards end, Iyer took them home comfortably. Super Kings' spinners tried to make use of the slow pitch, which offered some turn but they had very little to defend.
Vishal Dikshit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo