Returning after a long lay-off, Adam Gilchrist led from the front to take Kings XI Punjab to a comfortable six-wicket win over Chennai Super Kings at the HPCA Stadium on Thursday. Punjab’s eighth victory in 15 matches kept alive their hopes of making the IPL play-offs this season, while Chennai, having played all their matches and finished on 17 points, stay fourth in the standings but will now have to depend on other results going their way to make it through.
A hamstring injury had kept out Gilchrist for the most part of this tournament, but he showed no signs of rustiness in his unbeaten 64 as Punjab chased 121 with 21 balls to spare. Together with Mandeep Singh, the Australian got the hosts off to a brisk start, with fifty runs up in the seventh over itself. Though Mandeep was then bowled by Albie Morkel for 24 and Dwayne Bravo – the only Chennai batsman to make a substantial contribution earlier – got Nitin Saini and David Hussey out cheaply soon after, the total was too little to allow any pressure to build on Punjab.
The 40-year-old Gilchrist, meanwhile, rolled back the years and Yo Mahesh in particular suffered, going for 22 runs in the 15th over. He thrashed Mahesh for two sixes over square leg and two more fours – over fine leg and then over mid-off – and from then on, the game as a contest was over, Azhar Mahmood finishing things off with a boundary off Morkel to also improve his side’s run-rate somewhat.
Earlier, Punjab’s pacers repaid the faith put in them by Gilchrist, who sent in Chennai to bat on a green pitch in overcast conditions in Dharamsala. Praveen Kumar made full use of the swing on offer, and dismissed both openers – Murali Vijay (10) and Michael Hussey (7) – in consecutive overs, both edging simple catches behind to the wicketkeeper. He could have had a third one as well, but Piyush Chawla put down a simple catch at slip off Suresh Raina with Chennai struggling at 25 for 2 at the end of the Powerplay overs, and Kumar finished with still impressive figures of 2 for 18.
Briefly, it looked as if Punjab might have to pay a high price for the dropped catch, with Raina launching two sixes off Mahmood soon after. However, he was gone two deliveries later, Gilchrist taking another easy catch after Raina needlessly chased a wide delivery and only managed a thick outside edge. And when captain MS Dhoni was caught at third man by Saini off Parvinder Awana, Chennai were left in dire straits at 46 for 4 at the end of the 11th over.
Bravo, however, fought back with a gritty 43-ball 48, picking Chawla for 12 runs off his only over, and his 32-run partnership with Ravindra Jadeja (13) and then a 34-run partnership with Morkel (14) – the biggest of the innings – ensured Chennai reached a total that at least gave their bowlers something to defend. Although David Hussey was smashed for two consecutive sixes by Bravo and Mahmood gave away a four and a six to Morkel in the 18th, Awana (2 for 12) and Ryan Harris (1 for 24) did well to keep Chennai to 120 for 7, a total their batsmen eventually chased without much fuss.