Punjab hang on after thriller
Kings XI Punjab lived to see another day in the IPL after a tremendous bowling effort - highlighted by Yuvraj Singh's second hat-trick of the tournament - gave them a one-run win over the Deccan Chargers off the last ball of the game. Rohit Sharma played yet another crucial innings for Deccan but Punjab fought back valiantly after a poor batting performance.
Adam Gilchrist had given Deccan a brisk start of 30 in three overs. But Ramesh Powar's entry into the attack turned things around. Powar took two in two in his first over and the scoring rate dropped considerably. But Deccan were still ahead of the required run-rate in the 12th over when Yuvraj struck with Gibbs' wicket. He returned in the 14th to take two more and after that Deccan were playing catch-up.
They needed 43 off 18 when Rohit hit two sixes and a four off Wilkin Mota to bring Deccan back in the game. Fourteen off the next over meant Deccan needed 11 off the final. Irfan Pathan, who went for 18 in his first over, was handed the ball. Rohit got an edge to go for four off the second and Pathan followed with a wide. Four needed off the last three: Rohit tried to hit to midwicket and was bowled, RP Singh survived one ball before top-edging the next to Pathan. Needing four of the final ball, Ryan Harris hit it to the off side and Brett Lee fumbled in the pick-up but Harris was never interested in the unlikely third run that would give Punjab the tie. Now Deccan have to win their next game against the Bangalore Royal Challengers to have any hope of reaching the semi-final.
Powar's introduction worked as an antidote to Pathan's horror first over - Gilchrist pulled a short and wide one for four, hit a fuller ball for six over midwicket, drove an over-pitched delivery between point and cover for four before flicking another boundary to fine leg. Gilchrist leapt out of the crease to the first ball, pitched outside leg, looking to hit it over midwicket. But it turned sharply towards off stump and he was too far down the track to make his way back. T Suman, the new batsman, also stepped out of the crease and completely missed the line to be bowled. Andrew Symonds faced the hat-trick ball and lofted it over mid-on for a four, though he didn't middle it.
The other bowlers chipped in to increase the pressure. Sreesanth bowled full and straight; Piyush Chawla struggled to get his length right, bowling too full, but didn't go for too many runs; Powar flighted the ball and got big turn which the batsmen weren't willing to take risks against after the first two wickets. Even then Deccan had the better chance. But it all turned pear-shaped for them after the strategy break. Chawla held on to a diving catch from Gibbs off the last ball of Yuvraj's second over. Then in the first ball of this third, Yuvraj drew Symonds out of the crease and Kumar Sangakkara effected an excellent stumping after fumbling with the ball. Deccan were 79 for 4, needing 56 off 41 balls. Venugopal Rao faced up to the hat-trick ball - a flat arm ball just outside off - and let it go just to see it bowl him. To make things worse, Deccan didn't score a boundary between overs 7 and 14. Yuvraj finished with 3 for 13 and then Pathan made up for his first over with only two in his second and held his nerve in the final one after Rohit had brought Deccan back into contention.
Punjab's batting was in contrast to their inspired bowling as the top-order batsmen threw their wickets away and then some tight bowling from Deccan meant only 17 were taken off the last three overs. At the end of ten overs Punjab were struggling at 55 for 4. The spinners exploited the early collapse and worked over the batsmen by bowling full and using flight to dry up the runs. Sangakkara played it out patiently and made do with singles till there were short and wide deliveries to go after. Rohit provided those in the 15th over that went for 16 runs. Sangakkara cut the first two for fours and paddled the third to fine-leg for three. After that over, Sangakkara went on the attack; Punjab crossed 100 in the 16th.
In the end it was contest between the bowlers of the two sides and Punjab's prevailed.
Nishi Narayanan is a staff writer at Cricinfo