Mohali: What threatened to be a mismatch between the defending IPL champions and a struggling Kings XI Punjab turned out to a gripping encounter at the PCA Stadium in Mohali on Tuesday. After yesterday's upset win for Pune Warriors over heavyweights Chennai Super Kings, Punjab pulled the ground from underneath Kolkata Knight Riders' feet to record a thrilling four-run victory.
The fans in Mohali were treated to a see-saw match. Punjab had been rocked by Sunil Narine's hat-trick in the 15th over - the tenth in league history - but a superb counter-attack from the No. 8, Manpreet Gony, got the total past 150 in stunning manner. Punjab's new-ball pair then grabbed two wickets in two overs to lift the hosts, after which Gautam Gambhir launched a stirring riposte to seemingly set KKR on course for a facile win. But Gony had a role to say in the chase too, taking the crucial wicket of Gambhir for 60 in a superb second spell in which he conceded just two wides in 12 balls to turn the course of KKR's reply dramatically. It came down to 11 off one over, but Praveen Kumar held his nerve to seal a humdinger.
KKR's chase was rocked first ball when Praveen nipped out Manvinder Bisla, who edged to Azhar Mahmood who spilled the catch at slip, only for an alert Adam Gilchrist to snap it up. Then it was Mahmood who got the massive wicket of Jacques Kallis, driving to extra cover where Mandeep Singh took a smart catch. At 1 for 2, an upset was on the cards but Gambhir counter-attacked in style with a series of excellent shots square of the wicket on either side, highlighted by nifty footwork and smart use of the crease.
Gambhir reached his third consecutive IPL fifty in 31 balls but fell soon after for 60, edging the first ball of a new Gony over to Gilchrist, that sparked a tremendous fightback from Punjab. Sandwiched between two very tidy overs from Gony - just two wides in 12 balls - was the big wicket of Eoin Morgan who, with 42 needed in 31 balls, got carried away and top-edged Mahmood in the 15th over. There was no comeback from KKR, whose batsman just kept swinging.
Parvinder Awana returned to bowl Manoj Tiwary for 1, Mahmood trapped Debabrata Das lbw for 1 and there was a further twist in the tale as Rajat Bhatia swung two big sixes off Awana. But the bowler had the last laugh, as Bhatia slogged at the sixth ball of the 19th over and was bowled for a six-ball 16. A dramatic last over began with a wide from Praveen, and then two scampered leg byes, followed by a terrific outfield catch from David Miller to cut off Yusuf Pathan. Defending eight off four balls, Praveen held his nerve to concede three singles and effect a direct hit to run out Sachitra Senanayake for 1.
This capped a tremendous match, and Punjab were indebted to Gony's innings to give them enough runs to defend. Punjab had been rocked in the 15th over, after Miller and David Hussey had put on 29 for the fourth wicket. On the fourth ball of Narine's over, Hussey cut hard and edged to Manvinder Bisla, and two clueless shots from Mahmood and Gurkeerat Mann left Punjab dazed. Mahmood popped a leading edge back to Narine and Gurkeerat had no idea about a ripping carom ball that spun past the bat and crashed into off stump.
Senanayake closed his spell with a wicket last ball, bowling Miller with one that went on. After these massive wickets, a belligerent cameo from Gony revived a stunted innings in dominating manner. Narine's figures were damaged by Gony, who struck six, four and six in successive deliveries during a 23-run penultimate over. Kallis picked up two wickets in the last over to limit the damage, but Punjab had put up a fighting total.