Adam Gilchrist made an important 85* in Punjab's successful chase. (BCCI Images)
Bangalore: Riding on Adam Gilchrist and Azhar Mahmood's fifties, Kings XI Punjab beat Royal Challengers Bangalore by seven wickets to keep themselves in the play-off hunt at the Chinnaswamy Stadium here on Tuesday. In pursuit of 175, Punjab got over the line in 18.1 overs to register their sixth win in 14 matches, while Bangalore's chances took a beating with their 7th defeat in 15 matches.
In pursuit of 175, Punjab suffered an early blow when Zaheer Khan, playing his first match this season, cleaned up Shaun Marsh for 8. Veterans Gilchrist and Mahmood thereafter glued to the crease. They were not overly aggressive but muscled anything loose coming their way. Gilchrist reached his first fifty this season with a six off Zaheer in the 14th over. Mahmood too reached his first fifty this season with a six off Muttiah Muralitharan in the next over.
Jaydev Unadkat succeeded in breaking the 118-run partnership in the 16th over with the Mahmood wicket for 61, but by that time the visitors were well on course for a win, needing just 33 off 28 balls. The in-form David Miller didn't stay for long as Muralitharan breached the South African's defences for two, but Gilchrist struck a few lusty blows in no time to make sure there wasn't any surprise. He remained unbeaten on 85 off 54 balls, hitting 10 fours and three sixes. Rajagopal Sathish complemented Gilchrist well with a 12* off six balls.
Earlier, after being put into bat, Bangalore lost Cheteshwar Pujara early to Parvinder Awana for 19 in the fifth over. Virat Kohli joined Chris Gayle and both got into an uncharacteristically defensive mode straight away. On a wicket posing no threats, both batsmen were ultra cautious as Bangalore scoffed 55 balls to reach their fifty.
But then all of a sudden everything changed with both batsmen hitting top gear. Fifty-three runs came between the 12th and 15th overs. Gayle hit Manpreet Gony for three successive sixes in the 15th over brighten things up a great deal for the hosts. Kohli wasn't far behind and picked up boundaries whenever opportunities presented themselves.
Awana finally broke Gayle's off-stump in two pieces in the 19th over to end the West Indian's 53-ball 77 that included four fours and six sixes. During the course of his innings, Gayle wrested back the Orange Cap from Chennai Super Kings' Michael Hussey taking his run-tally to 680 runs. Awana struck again two balls later, rattling AB de Villiers' stumps for six this time.
In an attempt to get more runs, Kohli also perished in the next over after a 43-ball 57. Lokesh Rahul then picked up two boundaries off the Mahmood over to help the hosts go past 170. Awana took 3 for 39 to be the best Punjab bowler, while Mahmood returned with 2 for 26.