The Kings XI Punjab proved why they are one of the tournament's best all-round sides by extending their winning spree to five, beating the Bangalore Royal Challengers comfortably by six wickets in a low-scoring encounter. After their bowlers used a seaming pitch to send Bangalore crashing to 126, their batsmen chased it down easily to push Punjab up into second place, behind the Rajasthan Royals on net run-rate.
One of the reasons for Bangalore's woeful struggle in the tournament has been the batting, and today was no exception. Rahul Dravid, with a battling 66, stood out in a sorry scorecard that had five ducks, three run-outs and just two batsmen crossing double figures. The constant reshuffling of the batting order reflected their weakness, none more so than at the top of the order today as their fifth opening combination in seven matches walked out to bat.
It was a good toss to win for Yuvraj Singh, who gave his bowlers first shot on a seaming track. Sreesanth was lethal in the first over, sending back a wobbly Wasim Jaffer with his stock delivery, the away swinger, before getting his next delivery to nip back in sharply to slice Cameron White in half and take the middle stump.
The situation was tailor-made for Jacques Kallis to script Bangalore's recovery act but a reckless call by Virat Kohli led to his dismissal. At 19 for 3, Bangalore had the dubious distinction of scoring the least at the end of five overs.
If Sreesanth was making life difficult at one end, breaking free at the other end wasn't easy either. Irfan Pathan's inswingers cramped the right-handers for room, while VRV Singh kept them guessing by hitting the deck outside the offstump and getting a few to rear up. Dravid and Kohli eased the nerves with a stand of 54 as the innings slowly picked up in pace.
The one glaring glitch for Punjab was the fielding and the biggest culprit was VRV, who wasn't agile enough on a quick outfield. It rubbed off on his bowling as he conceded three fours in an over. Dravid pulled the first to deep square leg, creamed the next through the covers to bring up his fifty, before flicking the third past midwicket to go past the highest score by a Bangalore batsman. He then scooped the same bowler over extra cover for a flat six before mistiming the following delivery to third man. Piyush Chawla was the most penetrative among the lot, trapping Misbah-ul-Haq and running through the lower order to finish with 3 for 25.
Though Bangalore had a paltry total to defend, on a seaming pitch, one would have given them a slender chance. Despite possessing lethal new-ball bowlers like Dale Steyn and Zaheer Khan, the early breakthroughs didn't come and the seamers were guilty of spraying it too wide, allowing the batsmen to drive through the line and beat the gaps with ease.
Bangalore had early success, sending back the out-of-sorts James Hopes in the second over, courtesy a brilliant reflex catch by White at cover. Ramnaresh Sarwan feasted on some wayward fare by Zaheer, crunching boundaries through the offside. Two quick breakthroughs by Praveen - sending back Sarwan off a bouncer and Yuvraj Singh with an away swinger - made things interesting. However, the in-form Shaun Marsh played a steadying hand and ensured there were no further hiccups. By the time he was dismissed - bowled through the gate by Zaheer - Punjab were only 21 away from victory and they coasted home with ten balls to spare.