Punjab steal last-ball thriller
Four dropped catches undid Brad Hodge's impressive half-century and took Kings XI Punjab back into the top four of the IPL table after they chased down 154 to beat the Kolkata Knight Riders by six wickets. The match went to the final ball but Punjab clearly outperformed Kolkata through the chase. Mahela Jayawardene, who scored an unbeaten 41-ball 52, and Irfan Pathan held their nerve to ensure the match didn't need the Super Over.
The chase was set up by Simon Katich and Sunny Sohal's frenetic partnership - 43 balls off 26 balls - after Punjab lost Kumar Sangakkara in the first over. Their stand, and one between Jayawardene and Katich - 33 off 25 balls - put Punjab ahead of the eight-ball even after they lost Katich and Yuvraj Singh before the end of the 15th over. Kolkata's bowlers, like Punjab's, conceded full tosses at the death and the final tight over from Ajit Agarkar was too little too late. Kolkata used eight bowlers and may need to review the logic of bringing in left-arm spinner Murali Kartik as the final change.
Sohal was dropped twice in two balls after which he and Katich unleashed a shower of fours and sixes - top edges and mistimed shots included - as Kolkata's bowlers struggled to keep a tight line. Chris Gayle ended his role in the tournament by making a mess of collecting a leading edge off Katich's bat when he was on 5. Kolkata's most productive over had been their final one where Brad Hodge and Morne van Wyk took Irfan Pathan for 21 runs; Punjab managed that in their fourth over, with Katich and Sohal hitting 22 off Ashok Dinda,.
Punjab's bowling had been equally ordinary but Kolkata's batsmen, barring Hodge, could not hit over the top. Brendon McCullum struggled to pick the gaps and Gayle failed to build on his steady start. The run-rate did not improve significantly even after Hodge joined McCullum at the crease after Gayle's fall.
McCullum ground out his 19 runs off 31 balls before pulling a short and wide delivery off Chawla straight to Vikramjeet Malik at deep backward square-leg. His dismissal brought a spurt of energy to the innings, due mainly to Hodge. At first he rotated the strike with Sourav Ganguly and converted the loose deliveries into boundaries. He pulled Yuvraj for two consecutive fours to midwicket and then hit Abdulla over his head for a six; Ganguly opened the face of his bat to guide a four to third man and then slogged a huge six off Chawla to square leg. That seemed to energise Ganguly and he tried to attack every subsequent delivery. It didn't work and three balls later Ganguly top-edged a sweep to Kumar Sangakkara for a 23-ball 22.
After Ganguly's dismissal, Hodge threw his bat at everything and the 21 runs off the final over would have given Kolkata the game if it hadn't been for those dropped catches.
Nishi Narayanan is a staff writer at Cricinfo