Tenacious Punjab win tense game
A powerful start from the top four, followed by nerveless hands from Mahela Jayawardene and Brett Lee stole the thunder from Andrew Symonds' first IPL game, setting up Kings XI Punjab's win over the Deccan Chargers at the Kimberley Oval. The win won't take Punjab into the top four but they will hope it is an end to their poor run of three losses in the last four games. This was the game of the two returning Australians, Symonds and Lee, and though both starred, only one prevailed as the match went down to the final over.
Jayawardene had taken Punjab to 20 short of the win in the 18th over when he was run out for a measured 43, setting up a tense finale. Nineteen were required off 12 balls; Piyush Chawla and Lee collected three runs off the first three before Lee eased the pressure with a searing six over long-off. Two more singles meant Punjab needed eight off the last over and the game looked over as Chawla hooked a four off RP Singh's first ball. But RP hit back, leaving three needed off the final three. Lee scrambled two to long-off before finishing it off with one ball left.
Punjab's top four had added runs and lost wickets in pairs, but they set up the chase with 86 in first ten overs. The openers, Sunny Sohal and Simon Katich, gave their side an explosive start of 44 in four overs, before falling within two balls of each other to Rohit Sharma, fresh from four wickets in five balls earlier this week. Kumar Sangakkara and Yuvraj Singh diluted his effect, milking 11 from his second over. They also went after Symonds - taking 20 in one over - before being dismissed within two balls of each other to Shoaib Ahmed just before the strategy break. In trying to contain them, Deccan had used seven bowlers by then, with only Rohit bowling two successive overs.
After the break, Pragyan Ojha bowled two tight overs after which Gilchrist brought T Suman into the attack and was immediately rewarded with Irfan Pathan's wicket, swinging the game in Deccan's favour once again. But Jayawardene kept Punjab in the hunt with successive sixes, before Lee finished it off.
Earlier, Symonds' power-hitting had taken Deccan to a competitive 168, though a slow-down mid-innings - they added four runs for the loss of two wickets between overs 10 and 12 - was probably the eventual difference. Deccan owed their quick start - 44 in the first five overs - to Gilchrist, Suman and several Punjab misfields. Gilchrist hit Pathan for two fours in his first over, then pulled Sreesanth's first ball for a six before falling in the same over.
Suman came in and attacked right from the start, picking Pathan off his pads for six and also getting runs off edges. After Herschelle Gibbs fell, cutting Chawla to Jayawardene at backward point, Suman and Rohit began building on the quick start. They rotated the strike and picked boundaries off anything short - Chawla was hit for a six to long-off by Suman and lofted for four to wide midwicket by Rohit in an over that cost 12 runs.
A bowling change in the tenth over ended Suman's innings and it looked like Deccan were losing the plot before Symonds broke the shackles. After Yuvraj Singh missed a caught-and-bowled chance off him, Symonds picked a short ball by Piyush Chawla for a six over midwicket. Deccan crossed 100 in the 15th over after which he began attacking in earnest. Irfan Pathan went for 13 runs and Sreesanth for 20 - including consecutive sixes over long-on and long-off -as Symonds reached his fifty off 29 balls.
But for the second time in the IPL, Symonds played a big innings and ended up on the losing side.
Nishi Narayanan is a staff writer at Cricinfo