Marsh powers Punjab to easy win
There were plenty of star batsmen on show but the two best innings of an absorbing encounter came from two youngsters. Shaun Marsh's unbeaten 84 on his IPL debut, carrying Kings XI Punjab to a comfortable seven-wicket win - their third on the trot - and fourth place in the points table, followed Rohit Sharma's 76, which lifted the Deccan Chargers to a respectable 164.
Each side also saw cameos from more experienced hands; VVS Laxman provided the early aggression for Deccan with a typically fluid 48 off 34 balls, while Mahela Jayawardene shrugged off his indifferent form to date with an assured unbeaten 45 to shepherd Marsh - the son of the former Australian opener Geoff Marsh - as they ran down the target with ease.
Sent in to bat, Deccan raced to 50 for 1 after six overs on the back of Laxman's efforts, and seemed on course for a huge total. However, the game's complexion changed when legspinner Piyush Chawla intelligently varied his trajectory and pace in a two-over spell to remove Herschelle Gibbs and Laxman. Gibbs, on his IPL debut, fell as he clubbed a short one straight to midwicket while Laxman was too early into a drive to lob one to Yuvraj at covers to leave Deccan at 67 for 3 after nine overs.
Enter Rohit, who had burst into the limelight with a fighting fifty against South Africa in the ICC World Twenty20 last year. As wickets fell around him and only Shahid Afridi touching double figures, Rohit took the fight to the bowlers. He started slowly, as the Punjab's bowlers keeping things tight.
It wasn't till the 15th over that he opened out, taking Chawla for 12 runs, including a four and a big six, to spoil the legspinner's figures. The next over was from Gagandeep Singh, playing his first IPL match; he fired in a couple of great yorkers but Rohit hit him for two powerful boundaries off the last two balls. His fifty came with a heave over midwicket off VRV Singh and the runs continued to flow as he took Gagandeep for three consecutive fours in the 19th. A six off Irfan in the final over rounded off his exploits, having scored his last 57 runs off 22 balls.
For all that, though, it was still a below-par total that Punjab had to chase down and Marsh got them off to a confident start with a couple of sweetly-timed boundaries in the first over. Laxman shuffled the bowlers around and managed to stifle the runs but it needed a stroke of luck for the breakthrough.With the score on 41 in the sixth over, Marsh lashed a Sanjay Bangar delivery straight back and the bowler managed to get a hand on it as it crashed into the stumps with non-striker Ramnaresh Sarwan out of his crease. Sangakkara fell soon after but Marsh and Yuvraj were involved in a 41-run stand off four overs to keep the target well in sight.
Marsh remained unruffled even after Yuvraj's dismissal and was joined by the cool-headed Jayawardene, who smashed three boundaries off his first five balls. The only time they looked in trouble was when Bangar sent down a tight 14th over and the required run-rate crept over nine. The response from Punjab was swift - Jayawardene played a couple of scoops and an extra-cover drive as 19 runs came off the next over.
Besides scoring heavily square of the wicket on the off side Marsh - who was a replacement for Simon Katich, Punjab's matchwinner in their previous game - also unleashed some lovely on-drives. There were a few streaky shots towards the end before he clubbed Zoysa for a straight six, his first of the match. Jayawardene brought up the victory with another classy extra-cover drive, as Punjab continued their resurgence after losing their first two games.
Siddarth Ravindran is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo