Inspired Punjab trounce Mumbai
Football's truism - money alone can't buy you a winning team - found its echo in cricket as the Mumbai Indians, the IPL's most expensive franchise, lost their third consecutive game in a row to find themselves one place above the bottom of the table. They were outplayed by Kings XI Punjab, who secured their first win of the tournament with a fine team performance studded by some moments of individual brilliance.
For all of that, this match had lots for the purist too, as it showed Test skills can be used to great effect in cricket's newest format. Kumar Sangakkara used classical shots in his innings, while Piyush Chawla bowled attacking legspin to rattle the Mumbai batsmen and concede just 16 runs off four overs.
At the toss, Harbhajan Singh explained the decision to field first by saying his side preferred chasing. But their pursuit of a competitive, though not impossible, target was crippled by wickets falling at regular intervals - six of them between the ninth and fifteenth overs - as the line-up, once again lacking Sachin Tendulkar, came up against some inspired Punjab bowling.
Leading the line was Brett Lee, who conceded nine runs off his four overs as he mixed scorching pace with athleticism and exuberance to dismiss the Mumbai openers. After going past the 150kph-mark in his first over, he took a brilliant return catch in the next to remove Sanath Jayasuriya before running out Luke Ronchi off the following ball with a fluid diving throw even as the batsman chased after him a yard behind.
More athleticism was on display as Yuvraj Singh plucked out a blinding one-handed catch by stretching to left at covers to dismiss Shaun Pollock.
At the other end of the spectrum was the teenager Chawla, all twirls and swirls as he bowled Dwayne Bravo and Saurabh Tiwary with deliveries that stayed straight. His figures at the end read two for 16 runs off four, incredible for a spinner in Twenty20.
The most consistent display of class and grace came earlier in the day, from Sangakkara. Though he missed getting a hundred, Sangakkara managed to overtake Brendon McCullum as the tournament's leading run-scorer - and he did it in style.
For his first scoring shot, a drive through extra-cover for four, he transferred his weight perfectly from back to front foot and then arrested his follow-through halfway through the shot. Out of place in such a setting, perhaps, but no one was complaining.
He used his wrists to great effect; to reach his fifty - off 23 balls - with a cut-glide to point and to flick to fine leg. And the purists would have been delighted when he was joined by Mahela Jayawardene, who thrilled with an equally wrist-driven flick for six to fine leg. Jayawardene, though, didn't stay for long, and was caught for 12 trying to sweep fine. Yuvraj matched them in grace with a six driven over long-on. The biggest six of the innings, though, was hit by Lee - he lifted a fuller delivery off Dhawal Kulkarni in the final over high in the sky over long-off.
But barring Sangakkara, no other Punjab batsman built an innings of consequence - the next highest score was 18. Yet, if you look at their shots, Punjab's batsmen look like they can entertain and deliver on a good day. Mumbai, on the other hand, will be desperately hoping Sachin Tendulkar is fit for their next match against Deccan Chargers on Sunday.
Nishi Narayanan is a staff writer at Cricinfo