Valthaty ton pulls off superb chase
Kings XI Punjab 193 for 4 (Valthaty 120*) beat Chennai Super Kings 188 for 4 (Vijay 74, Badrinath 66*) by six wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
The IPL's northernmost franchise found a hero with roots in the south, as Paul Valthaty stunned Chennai Super Kings to clinch a maiden win for Kings XI Punjab this season after a disappointing performance in their opening game. Valthaty was a surprise promotion to the opening slot, instead of the regular Shaun Marsh, and he answered the call with a blistering start, keeping his team on par with the required-rate in the middle overs and surging again at the death to complete victory after achieving a spectacular century.
At 27, with just one List A game and 13 Twenty20 matches, Valthaty had been on the sidelines of the Mumbai team on India's domestic circuit. His previous highest in the IPL was 6, but whatever he must have done at the practice sessions ahead of this game sparked a potentially career-changing turn of events. Punjab had been deflated at the end of the Chennai innings, after they had squandered the perfect start of two wickets off the first two balls to concede 188. The sight of an unfamiliar face walking out with Adam Gilchrist raised eyebrows, but it didn't take too long for Valthaty to justify his promotion.
In what was overall a descent into mediocrity for both teams with the ball, the only signs of promise were visible in the first few overs in either innings. As Tim Southee found some swing and R Ashwin accuracy in the early phase of the chase, Valthaty did as asked, combating the bowling with brute force as his usually belligerent partner ceded floor. Ashwin was swept over square leg and hit over mid-on, Southee was punished for providing width with a bludgeon through point and Albie Morkel was welcomed with a ferocious pull for six followed by a disdainful slash to the point boundary.
Valthaty had smashed 45 of the 65 that came in the Powerplay, the wicket of Gilchrist proving a minor distraction. The focus turned to keeping the momentum with Punjab and he showed his adeptness at picking the gaps, backing up the strength in his forearms with a wonderful use of the wrists. The second ball after the Powerplay was delicately late-cut past point, and the singles were picked up with ease amid excellent support from Sunny Singh at the other end who struck a few useful blows of his own.
Valthaty hammered Jakati and Randiv through the off side and lofted Styris for a straight six, ensuring the chase was on track despite the loss of Sunny and Abhishek Nayar in quick succession. Thirty-eight were needed off 24 when Morkel was brought back, a decision MS Dhoni was made to regret. Morkel had dropped Valthaty twice, among the many fielding lapses from Chennai, and hurt his team's chances even further in an over that fetched 17. He gifted a full toss on the pads, then produced a streaky edge that brought up a 52-ball ton for Valthaty, who followed up with superbly timed steer past point to make it 21 off three overs. Even the otherwise impressive Southee faltered against Valthaty in his final over to be slashes for two fours, before Dinesh Karthik slog-swept Jakati to seal a morale-boosting win.
That performance undermined a Chennai recovery led by Badrinath and Vijay, one seeking to constantly improvise and the other relying on powerplay, in a 124-run stand to set the foundation for a total that would test the opposition even on a flat pitch. Some inept bowling from Piyush Chawla and Bhargav Bhatt provided them the release to open up after the early tough phase, while Nayar's failed variations in pace and Praveen's poor return at the death, in the 18th over where Dhoni blasted 22, appeared to have put it beyond Punjab. Who would have bet on Valthaty to pull off a coup?
Siddhartha Talya is a sub editor at ESPNcricinfo