Punjab hold nerve on night of mediocrity
Kings XI Punjab 136 for 8 (Yuvraj 43, Murali 3-16, Morkel 2-23) tied with Chennai Super Kings 136 for 7 (Parthiv 57, Theron 2-17). Punjab won after Super Over
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
How they were out
Mediocrity met mediocrity on Sunday night, and somehow produced the first tie of the third edition of the IPL, leading to a Super Over, which gave Kings XI Punjab an unlikely victory. Irfan Pathan and Yuvraj Singh managed 82 runs in the 10 overs they faced between them, but the others batted poorly to score just 54 in the other 10. In the chase, even after a 65-run opening stand, the Chennai Super Kings batsmen contrived to be needing 10 runs off the last over. Fittingly for a match of low quality, the last over of the regulation game - bowled by Irfan and faced by Albie Morkel and R Ashwin - read: edge for four, missed slog for two byes thanks to an overthrow, single, another edge for two, a missed waft, and a powerful, nervous hit straight to mid-off with one needed off the last ball.
Juan Theron, playing his first IPL match and Punjab's bowling hero in the regulation time, bowled Matthew Hayden off the second ball in the Super Over, and despite a slogged six from Suresh Raina, once again 10 were needed in the last over. Muttiah Muralitharan was hit for a six first ball by Mahela Jayawardene, but he came back with a wicket and a dot to set the match up again. Yuvraj chose that extremely nervous moment to execute a delicate reverse-sweep, a shot he hardly ever uses, to finish the game off with two balls to go.
By halftime, though, Murali, the second Sri Lankan spinner to bowl the losing Super Over in as many tied matches in IPL, wouldn't have expected to play any further role in the game, let alone bowl the pressure over. In regulation time, he was the perfect spy, taking out two of the most prolific batsmen from his country, with 3 for 16 in his four overs. It wasn't as if Chennai needed any extra-ordinary bowling effort: the Punjab batsmen were hapless again.
Irfan, promoted to open the innings, and Yuvraj would have felt the rest of the team had turned on them. They got zero support from the other end, and the two batted together for only nine deliveries. There was a time when Irfan had scored 29 off 17 balls with five crunchy boundaries, but thanks to the struggling Ravi Bopara and Kumar Sangakkara, Punjab were 30 for 1 after five overs. Yuvraj, too, scored 43 out of the 70 runs that came while he was at the crease. He got to face only 28 out of 64 deliveries bowled when in the middle.
Between those spells of ordinary cricket from Punjab came Murali's genius. In his first over, inside the Powerplay, he beat Sangakarra twice in the flight, but the real beauty came in his second. This time he didn't bowl it flat when he saw Sangakkara charging down, just got it to dip more and then the bounce left him high and dry.
Jayawardene was made to look poorer than that. Murali first beat a late-cut with a topspinner from round the stumps, and then got a flighted offbreak to turn enough to beat the bat and get an lbw decision. At 64 for 4 after 11 overs, Punjab were looking at a freak innings from Yuvraj to keep them alive.
Yuvraj hit four fours and two sixes, but Mohammad Kaif and Manvinder Bisla at the other end wasted too many deliveries. The trend for Punjab, until this game, had been for one aspect of their game to do well, and the other to let it down. Still, to defend 136 against an in-form Hayden was too much to ask for. What's more, they had dropped their only bowler who could produce wickets, Sreesanth.
Hayden was not at his murderous best, but he was good enough he overtake Yusuf Pathan for maximum sixes in the IPL so far, and leave Chennai only 72 to get off the 68 deliveries. Punjab, the whipping boys of the tournament until then, used to letting matches slip after getting into winning positions, were about to turn one around from a losing position.
Their newest player, Theron, a medium-pacer, provided the turning point. Parthiv Patel dropped one at his feet and called Suresh Raina for a single, but Theron ran faster than Raina and kicked the ball into the stumps, from a good-length area on the pitch. Umpire Daryl Harper, who had earlier called a clear six a four, joined in the fun, sending M Vijay off when the ball was clearly sliding down leg.
About five overs later, the six call was corrected, and Parthiv was seeing Chennai through with what seemed a sensible fifty. Then came the rush of the blood. Just after having hit a boundary, he jumped out to Piyush Chawla and was stumped, leaving Chennai 16 to get off 16. Morkel and Manpreet Gony, who had earlier bowled poorly to give 20 runs in two overs, started slogging as if the requirement was sixty and not sixteen.
Theron, bowling the 19th over, only had to be straight when Gony produced the worst bit of cricket on a night that had had its fair share already. Throwing his front leg out of the way, and his head up, he slogged and lost his middle stump. An injury had confined Justin Kemp to the dressing room and Ashwin, like a hare in the headlights, couldn't do much with the last two deliveries of that over, setting up an exciting finale.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo