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May 10, 2008
A match that swung from one side to the other was decided by two exceptional overs from L Balaji, the India international: he first picked up two crucial wickets in the 13th over to seize the initiative for his side, then picked up the IPL's first hat-trick in the final over to finish the match. Balaji's performance, in front of an ecstatic home crowd, pushed Chennai Super Kings to second place in the points table and ended Kings XI Punjab's streak of five successive wins.
Chasing a stiff 182, Punjab lost two early wickets but Shaun Marsh stayed calm at the other end, working the Chennai bowlers into the gaps for runs while picking up the odd boundaries. As the asking-rate escalated to over ten, Marsh decided to step it up, punishing Palani Amarnath for two sixes over the straight boundary and bringing up his fifty with another clean straight hit, off Balaji.
If Marsh appeared as if he'd just arrived after a stint at a driving range, Ramnaresh Sarwan, with whom he put on 66, was a touch slow with 20 off 22 balls and his inability to hit a boundary suggested why his Twenty20 strike-rate is less than a run-a-ball.
Their partnership was looking threatening, though, before both fell in one match-turning over from Balaji. Ambling in from a shortened run and putting in the effort in his final stride, he varied his deliveries, mixing up slower balls with shorter ones, with some surprising the batsmen. He got Sarwan with the first ball, the batsman bowled while giving the charge. Four balls later Marsh followed, top-edging to Amarnath on the square-leg boundary.
Amarnath tightened the screws in the next over, having Yuvraj Singh caught by Stephen Fleming at point, and the match was almost over as a contest. Not as a spectacle, though.
The 15th over saw a mini-battle between Muttiah Muralitharan and his Sri Lanka team-mate Mahela Jayawardene, who got down on his knees and dispatched him over deep midwicket. Two balls later, though, a repeat effort resulted in a top edge to S Vidyut at short third man, and Jayawardene, normally accustomed to running to congratulate his leading bowler, had to head back to the dugout.
And then there was the hat-trick, in the last over of the match. There were four balls to go and 19 runs to get when Balaji bowled to Irfan Pathan, who'd already hit him for a six off the first ball. This time, he holed out to a slower ball to deep square leg. Next, Piyush Chawla lofted one towards long-off for an easy catch, and the hat-trick was completed when VRV Singh managed to back away and top-edge one straight to Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Badrinath, a local boy like Balaji, and Dhoni had earlier threatened to take the game away as Michael Hussey had done in the previous encounter between Chennai Super Kings and Kings XI Punjab, but Punjab's bowlers did well to restrict the flow of runs in the final five overs of the innings.
Dhoni, Chennai's adopted hero and captain, sent the crowd into raptures soon after his arrival by clobbering Chawla for three sixes; the first two sailed into the leg-side stands, while the third was hit flat over the bowler's head. Yuvraj soon went in for damage control, bringing on Pathan, his side's leading wicket-taker, for his second spell as early as the 13th over. Badrinath took two sixes off Pathan and brought up his fifty off 37 deliveries. The two had added 80 off 49 deliveries, and a final flourish was on the cards.
Punjab came back well to rein in the rampaging batsmen. Sreesanth had bowled a good first spell in which he removed Chennai's openers and his final one - the 16th of the innings - went for just five, James Hopes and VRV took the cue and targeted the blockhole, and the run-scoring abated. Chennai got 181, but would be disappointed at not having been able to go past the 200-run mark, which looked likely at one stage.
Mathew Varghese is an editorial assistant at CricinfoFeeds: Mathew Varghese
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