All star of the match

Jayawardene's graceful ton stuns Kolkata

Mahela Jayawardene scored his first Twenty20 century  •  ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Mahela Jayawardene scored his first Twenty20 century  •  ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Mahela Jayawardene wasn't supposed to play against Kolkata Knight Riders at Eden Gardens. Only an injury to Shaun Marsh gave him a spot in the XI, after which Jayawardene asked to open. Kings XI Punjab can thank fate for those events for he responded to Kolkata's daunting target of 200 with his first Twenty20 century, an innings that kept Punjab ahead of the asking-rate throughout their successful chase. Jayawardene started in high gear and kept the accelerator floored all the way; his partnership with Sri Lankan team-mate Kumar Sangakkara ensuring an end to Punjab's string of deplorable performances this season.
It began poorly for the hosts, with Murali Kartik fumbling the first ball of the chase at point and allowing a single, which brought Jayawardene on strike. He got on his toes as Shane Bond delivered, rode the bounce, and cut his first ball to boundary. Kartik could only watch this time. Jayawardene continued to thread cuts through the off side, against Bond and Jaidev Unadkat, and also found the long-off boundary with a graceful straight drive. His first leg-side boundary was a lofted six off Unadkat in the fourth over. He lost his opening partner Manvinder Bisla in the fifth over to an arm ball from Kartik, but his intensity and strike-rate did not relent.
In the final over of the Powerplay, Jayawardene made room and square drove Gayle for four, stayed back and pulled over short fine leg, and lofted the last ball back over the bowler's head for six. Punjab scored 17 runs off the over and were 69 for 1 after six. There was rain in the air and D-L equations on players' minds. If the game ended there, Punjab were ahead. It would stay that way.
Punjab had raced to 105 for 1 after 9.5 overs when Jayawardene gave Kolkata a chance, spooning Angelo Mathews to short third man. He was on 51, Punjab needed 95 off 61 balls, but Kartik dropped the opportunity. He was made to regret it immediately. Jayawardene hit three fours in the next over, bowled by Ajit Agarkar, and Punjab continued to whittle down the target rapidly. The identity of the bowler didn't matter, for Jayawardene found the boundary at will, and neither did Sangakkara's dismissal with the score on 149.
The match ended with successive boundaries from Jayawardene - one helped past fine leg, the other pulled in front of midwicket - off the first two balls of the 19th over, but the Eden Gardens faithful had long since been silenced.