Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Kings XI Punjab 167 for 5 (Pooran 53, Maxwell 32, Rabada 2-27) beat Delhi Capitals 164 for 5 (Dhawan 106*, Shami 2-28) by five wickets
Shikhar Dhawan became the first batsman to score back-to-back hundreds in the IPL but it wasn't enough as the Kings XI Punjab beat the Delhi Capitals by five wickets in Dubai to boost their playoff hopes with the third straight win. The Kings XI are now fifth on the points table with eight points from ten games.
Batting first, the Capitals could manage only 164 for 5 despite Dhawan's unbeaten 106 off 61 balls, which included 12 fours and three sixes. The main reason for a below-par total being the lack of support from the other batsmen, who could muster only 54 from 59 balls, and some excellent death bowling by the Kings XI bowlers.
The Kings XI lost their openers early in the chase but Chris Gayle's 13-ball 29 and Nicholas Pooran's 28-ball 53 meant the asking rate never crossed eight after the fifth over and dipped below six after 11 overs. Kagiso Rabada returned to dismiss Pooran and Glenn Maxwell, but it was too late by then with the Kings XI needing just 17 from the last four overs. R Ashwin and Axar Patel bowled two quiet overs but James Neesham hit the last ball off the penultimate over deep midwicket to take his side home.
Shaw's lean run and another Dhawan hundred
Prithvi Shaw had scores of 4, 0 and 0 coming into this game and there was no respite for him on Tuesday night either. He struggled to find the middle of the bat and when he did, he couldn't find the gaps. He then tried to go inside-out over extra cover against Neesham, who was brought on as early as in the fourth over. But a slight roll of fingers over the ball meant Shaw ended up playing a touch early and handed a skier to Maxwell at extra cover.
Before the match against the Chennai Super Kings, Dhawan had never scored a T20 hundred in 267 outings but now has two in last two games. He started with a four and a six off Maxwell in the first over of the match and then, alongside Shreyas Iyer, took the Capitals past 50 in the sixth over. Dhawan and Iyer added 48 off 31 balls for the second wicket before Ashwin had the latter caught down the leg side for 14 off 12 balls.
Rishabh Pant, who returned to the side after recovering from his hamstring injury, too, didn't have a fruitful outing and was caught at long-on off Maxwell for a laboured 14 off 20 balls. But there was no stopping for Dhawan, who brought up his fifty off 28 balls. While he attacked every bowler, he was particularly severe on the spinners. Employing an array of sweep shots, he looted 61 off 32 against them and reached his second successive hundred, in 57 balls, in the 19th over.
Shami helps Kings XI pull it back
The Capitals were 117 for 3 at the end of the 15th over but could manage only 47 in the last five overs. The main reason behind that was Mohammed Shami, who sent down yorker after yorker and gave away only 13 from his last two overs - 18th and 20th of the innings - while also picking up the wickets of Marcus Stoinis and Shimron Hetmyer.
Universe Boss' Big Bang doesn't last long
Chasing 165, the Kings XI didn't have the best of the starts. While KL Rahul deposited a free hit from Daniel Sams for six over long-off, Patel had him soon after when the batsman tried to give him the charge only to hole out to mid-on.
With Gayle new at the crease, it was expected the Capitals would go to Ashwin straightaway, who had dismissed Gayle four times in ten T20 innings before this match while conceding only 65 off 79 balls. Instead, the Capitals used Sams and Tushar Deshpande for the next two overs, and Gayle took full advantage of that. He tonked Deshpande for three fours and two sixes to take the Capitals to 50 at the end of the fifth over before Ashwin came into the attack and bowled him with his second ball, for 29 off 13.
Drop and run… out
Pooran started with a crisp cover drive off Ashwin and two balls later, dropped the ball on the off side for a quick single. Mayank Agarwal at the non-striker's end was hesitant to take off but seeing Pooran halfway down, he dashed towards the other end. Ashwin, meanwhile, had charged towards the ball and his throw to Pant found Agarwal well short.
Pooran tried the same thing two overs later but this time Maxwell sent him back. Had Iyer's off-balanced throw been more accurate, or had Pant's flick hit the stumps, Pooran would have been on his way back in the eighth over.
Pooran and Maxwell nearly take Kings XI through
Pooran, though, didn't let those incidents deter him and kept finding the boundary with his clean hitting. Deshpande once again came in for harsh treatment as Pooran smashed his three consecutive balls for 6, 4 and 4 in the ninth over.
With 45 required from the last eight overs, Iyer brought Rabada back and had immediate success. Pooran tried to leave one outside off but failed to drop his hands and the ball brushed the gloves on its way to the wicketkeeper. By that time, though, Pooran and Maxwell had already paved the way for Kings XI's victory by adding 69 in 40 balls. Maxwell, who was on 16 off 15 balls then, took over the baton and doubled his score in the next nine balls before becoming Rabada's second wicket. While the Capitals didn't have enough on the board to create panic, a missed stumping and a dropped catch didn't help their cause and the Kings finished the game with one over to spare.
'Naturally aggressive' Nicholas Pooran finds his sweet spot
"My innings was simple. If the ball was in my zone, I tried to strike it as clean as possible."
Nicholas Pooran makes the most of run-out reprieve
According to ESPNcricinfo's Luck Index, Delhi Capitals would have won the game had Rishabh Pant effected the run-out in the eighth over
Did the Capitals err in not starting with Ashwin against Gayle?
Also, why is Prithvi Shaw struggling after a brisk start to the tournament?
Pooran, bowlers give Kings XI playoffs boost with third straight win
Shikhar Dhawan's second hundred in a row went in vain for the Capitals