Kings XI Punjab 165 for 6 (Akshar 42*, Vohra 42, Tahir 3-22) beat Delhi Daredevils 164 for 7 (Karthik 69, Pietersen 49) by four wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Kings XI Punjab became the first team to confirm their seat in the playoffs, with a four-wicket win over bottom-placed Delhi Daredevils, but what should have been a comfortable chase turned into a scramble for the finish line. Against the best chasing team in the competition, Daredevils had to produce their best batting effort but they frittered a strong platform in the last four overs to post 164. Kings XI also suffered a few hiccups after a typically blistering start, and despite experimenting with their batting order, got home in the final over with two balls to spare.
An impetuous shot by Kings XI captain George Bailey - caught in the deep in the penultimate over - gave Daredevils a sniff and it came down to nine needed off in the 20th. Akshar Patel, the unlikely hero with the bat for Kings XI, was well set on 41 off 34 balls when Rishi Dhawan joined him. The pair ensured there were no dot balls in the final over from Wayne Parnell to pile on the pressure, and with four needed off three Dhawan pulled to the deep midwicket boundary to seal the win.
The Kings XI's openers Virender Sehwag and Manan Vohra blazed 67 off 6.2 overs, with Vohra the more dominant partner. Vohra's sixes down the ground stood out, particularly the back-foot punch off Mohammad Shami that sailed over deep cover. But in trying to attack Imran Tahir, he found M Vijay at long-off and went for 42 off 19 balls.
It was one of those rare days on which both Glenn Maxwell and David Miller failed. They also fell trying to attack the spinners - Maxwell off Tahir and Miller off JP Duminy. Kings XI were 95 for 4 off in 10 overs but they had a contingency in the event of a Miller-Maxwell no-show. Bailey promoted Akshar over himself and it paid off.
Akshar ensured he never got bogged down, looking for singles and keeping the required rate within manageable levels. Having moved to 18 off 19 balls, he had a productive over against Parnell, fetching three boundaries though he was lucky when an inswinging yorker deflected off his pad to third man. It was a close lbw shout but eventually given as runs. A six off Jaydev Unadkat brought the equation to 11 off 12 and the capacity crowd at the Kotla had to see the home team slump to a seventh straight defeat.
After being put in, Kevin Pietersen and Dinesh Karthik were commanding during their stand of 71 for the second wicket. Karthik was not afraid to play audacious shots off the seamers, such as his sweep off Sandeep Sharma that went flat over deep square leg. Pietersen took 18 off an over from Hendricks, and by the end of ten overs Daredevils were 84 for 1.
Just when his first fifty of the season was there for the taking, Pietersen fell to his old nemesis - the left-arm spinner. Batting on 49, he played down the wrong line to one that ripped off the pitch from Akshar and beat the bat. Karthik meanwhile was dominant against the spinners, lofting exquisitely down the ground.
Daredevils took 30 off overs 15 and 16 but it started going downhill with a spurt of wickets. Their best finishers, Duminy and Kedar Jadhav failed and the responsibility fell on Karthik for late acceleration. When Karthik departed for 69 - caught at deep square leg - his was the fourth wicket to go down in the space of nine balls. Daredevils managed only 20 off the last three overs and it cost them.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo