Gilchrist, seamers push Chennai to the brink
Kings XI Punjab 123 for 4 (Gilchrist 64*, Bravo 2-18) beat Chennai Super Kings 120 for 7 (Bravo 48, Awana 2-12, Praveen 2-18) by six wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Kings XI Punjab kept themselves in contention for a place in the playoffs with a comfortable victory set up by their seamers in Dharamsala. In conditions conducive to swing and movement, Praveen Kumar and Parvinder Awana stymied Chennai Super Kings, who finished their league campaign on a disappointing note. Super Kings are still hanging by a thread in this IPL though, and are at the mercy of other results.
Kings XI's decision to go in with a four-pronged pace attack paid off and despite a Super Kings fightback led by Dwayne Bravo, a target of 121 proved easy to scale down. Adam Gilchrist, returning to lead his side after a lay-off of nearly a month due to a hamstring injury, smashed an unbeaten half-century to see his team home in front of a full house at the picturesque HPCA Stadium.
Gilchrist, after winning the toss, had no doubts about putting Super Kings in and Praveen went about justifying that decision. Several IPL venues around the country have supported movement off the pitch but here there was genuine swing on offer. The Super Kings openers were confident when the ball was pitched up but indecisive when the length was just held back a touch. Praveen sensed that early and beat M Vijay, before having him caught behind when he tried to play an expansive shot.
Michael Hussey faced a tough time against Ryan Harris, pushing and prodding at away-going deliveries before nicking one to the keeper off Praveen. Suresh Raina was dropped on 2 at slip by Piyush Chawla and he went on to strike two sixes off Azhar Mahmood - one launched over long-off, the other top-edged over fine leg. But Raina chased a wide one that same over, and was snapped up by Gilchrist. Super Kings were in trouble when a nippy Parvinder Awana, who also got excellent carry, dismissed MS Dhoni to make it 46 for 4, but Bravo fought back.
Bravo waited for an opening, provided by the spin of Piyush Chawla, dispatching a long hop over midwicket and creaming him through point. He then went after David Hussey, smashing his offspinners for consecutive sixes towards cow corner. Though Awana continued to be miserly, going for just 12 in his four-over spell and picking up two wickets, Mahmood faced an assault at the death. Albie Morkel hammered him for a six and a four, and Bravo was able to put together stands of 32 and 34 with Ravindra Jadeja and Morkel. His 48 gave Super Kings something to defend but Kings XI were the happier bunch at the halfway mark.
Gilchrist ensured the advantage remained with Kings XI. Though Ben Hilfenhaus and Morkel found some assistance under overcast skies, it wasn't as much as the first innings. Kings XI approached the chase positively and an early burst prevented Super Kings from applying any serious pressure. Mandeep Singh, albeit a little fortuitously, slashed Hilfenhaus for a couple of boundaries in the first over and Gilchrist drove Morkel powerfully twice in the second. When R Ashwin was brought on in the sixth, he was pulled and swept by Gilchrist for two fours.
Mandeep fell after a half-century stand, and Nitin Saini and David Hussey lost their wickets playing avoidable shots but Kings XI were always on track while Gilchrist stayed. He was determined to see his team through, was cautious when the need arose and ruthless when an opportunity came. He slashed Bravo over point, and then tore into Yo Mahesh, whose generous dose of short balls and length deliveries were promptly dispatched. He was thrashed for two sixes over square leg and two more fours in an over that fetched 22, and the result from there on was a foregone conclusion.
Siddhartha Talya is a sub editor at ESPNcricinfo