Simon Katich's last game of the IPL turned into a memorable one as he steered Punjab's run-chase against a formidable Delhi bowling line-up in Mohali. After a four-pronged pace attack had made use of a surface that offered bounce, keeping Delhi down to a modest total, Katich's innovative methods helped Punjab to their second successive win in the competition. After watching two early losses, Priety Zinta has plenty of reasons to smile.
Delhi's bowlers had set up both their earlier wins but their batsmen squandered the early advantage at the toss here. A string of sketchy cameos allowed them to reach a competitive total but even the usually niggardly bowling line-up had no answer to Katich's cheeky shuffles.
Punjab might feel they under-used Katich - sent in at No.5 in their first game, where he was up against an near-impossible asking-rate, and missing out on the next two. Opening the innings here was the ideal platform, though, and he did what no other batsman has managed to in the tournament: hit Glenn McGrath and Mohammad Asif off rhythm. The duo had got Delhi upbeat with a wicket apiece but neither could contain Katich's counter-attack.
McGrath was struck for two successive fours twice while Asif was a bit confused after a hat-trick of boundaries - scooped over extra-cover, scooped over point and pulled to fine leg. Full or short, they were all put away.
He should have been out on 26, when an inswinging yorker from McGrath had him plumb in front, but Rudi Koertzen, the umpire, suggested there was an inside edge. Batsmen talk of playing in the V and Katich managed that both in front and behind the wicket. Two delectable straight drives, either side of the stumps at the non-striker's end, had McGrath muttering.
But what really messed with the bowlers' plans were his nimble shuffles across the stumps, gliding and flicking past the keeper. Walking across the stumps, he regularly played the pick-up shot to fine leg and whenever offered width he didn't waste the chance to angle the bat fine. He fell with just 40 needed, a task which Yuvraj Singh made sure was accomplished without too many jitters.
The game had been set up by the bowlers earlier. Irfan Pathan and Brett Lee made the early breakthroughs and were well backed up by VRV Singh and legspinner Piyush Chawla. They used the short ball effectively, amply illustrated by Shoaib Malik's tame upper-cut that sailed straight to Lee at third man. Pathan's two wickets - one an in-ducker to nail Virender Sehwag, the other a quick one that knocked back Rajat Bhatia's off stump - made him the leading wicket-taker in the tournament.
VRV was the most effective, ending with three wickets and conceding only 29. He hustled with pace and regularly surprised the batsmen with bounce. Dinesh Karthik had no clue to one that took off from a good length, flicked the glove and raced away over the keeper for four, and Manoj Tiwary too was in trouble against some well-directed bouncers.
Sehwag threatened to carry on from where he left off in the previous match but was trapped in front while shuffling across to Pathan. Shikhar Dhawan was unlucky to be given out to a Lee bouncer, when the ball actually brushed his shoulder, but the rest didn't have too many excuses. Malik, Karthik and Bhatia chipped in with cameos, all helping Tiwary in the rebuilding process but it was always going to be too little a total to defend, what with the fast outfield and the boundaries pulled in.
Batting for the first time in the tournament, Tiwary showed his ability to handle both spin and pace, sweeping Chawla and lofting Lee. He was in a good position to boost the total at the death - well set in the 18th over and striking it clean - but VRV's short ball did for him as well, as he top-edged one straight to mid-on. Lee ended with only one wicket but he will leave for Australia with the satisfaction of playing a part in the side's early revival.