Ricky impresses as Punjab cruise home
Punjab 146 for 3 (Ricky 76*, Mongia 35) beat Karnataka 142
for 7 (Akhil 33, Raghu 32, Patil 31) by seven wickets
It was not the six- and four-hitting mela that Twenty20 cricket is normally associated with. In fact there were only 15 fours in the first innings, and no sixes at all, as Karnataka scrambled to 142 for 7 at the Wankhede Stadium. And that proved to be too few as Punjab's batsmen used all the freedom they were given and won with one ball to spare. Ravneet Ricky, one of the few batsmen to approach this match without panic, cracked a superb unbeaten 76, and ensured that his team made it just in time.
After choosing to bat the going was tough for Karnataka. Much depended on the big hitting of Robin Uthappa, and when that proved a non-starter as he dragged Gagandeep Singh back onto his stumps, Karnataka had to battle hard for each run. Devraj Patil, the young wicketkeeper opening the batting, was fluent and effective, and he managed to keep one end running smoothly with 31. There was a lot of frantic running, mostly of the unnecessary and slightly panicked kind, and only one steady hand from C Raghu (32) and some enthusiastic hitting from B Akhil (33) pushed Karnataka towards respectability.
It was clear that the batsmen were not accustomed to playing Twenty20 cricket, and perhaps attempting to do too much in the 120 balls afforded to them. The attitude of trying to pinch runs off every possible opportunity was admirable, but some fairly adventurous attempts at improvisation meant that Karnataka lost too many wickets too quickly. Had the fielding been of a higher standard - if the stumps were hit more often - Karnataka would not even have made it to 142.
When the chase began it was a touch less frenetic than the first half. Punjab's batsmen, knowing what they needed to achieve, did not try and hit every ball out of the park. Ricky, opening the batting, dug in and clearly made up his mind to bat as normally as possible, while those around him went on an all-out attack.
Karan Goyal steered one outside off to gully and Yuvraj Singh was at the crease early. He seemed quite content blocking what he had to, in the knowledge that he could take on the bowler if and when needed, and clear the field. A lazy clip off the legs for a boundary, followed by a checked drive that was no more than a punch which easily cleared mid-off were capped by a huge six off Sunil Joshi over midwicket. When Yuvraj, on 25, speared a catch up in the air off Raghu, and was well caught by Manish Pandey at long-off, Karnataka knew they had a big wicket.
Dinesh Mongia, probably the most experienced Twenty20 cricketer of this lot, thanks to his experiences in county cricket, then took charge of the proceedings. He, like Yuvraj, was not overly stressed at playing out a few dot balls, and instead concentrated on making it count when he went for the big hit. And two such hits easily cleared the fence - one off Joshi and another an audacious walk down the pitch to Akhil that ended up in the stands over midwicket. Just when it appeared that Mongia had done the job, he lost his wicket, for a crucial 35, ballooning a catch to short fine-leg trying to play a cute scoop off Akhil.
Fortunately for Punjab they had one batsman, in Ricky, who batted long enough. For the best part he just played normal cricket shots, only once trying something unusual, when the pressure was really on at the end, chipping a ball over the keeper's head for a four. In the end, Ricky was the difference between the two sides, and he crashed one from Akhil through midwicket to rattle up the winning runs. Ricky was unbeaten on 76 off only 50 balls, with 8 fours and 2 sixes.
Anand Vasu is associate editor of Cricinfo