Mohali: In his first match of the season - and much belated, many will say - England's Twenty20 journeyman Luke Wright experienced almost the full gamut of emotions that an allrounder can. Batting for the first time in the IPL, Wright made an immediate impact with the bat as he smacked 37 off 10 to turn a fighting total into a dominating one. But 20 overs later, Wright wore a forlorn look after conceding 16 runs in five balls as David Miller smacked two sixes to seal a thrilling seven-wicket win for Kings XI Punjab with one delivery remaining.
Wright, having conceded 20 off his first two overs, was entrusted with bowling the last six balls of the match from which Punjab needed 16 to win. Miller was batting on 65 off 37 balls having revived his team from 58 for 3 in the company of Mandeep Singh, and struck a wide ball from Wright over extra cover, harried between the wickets for two, and then drilled a full toss over long-off to clear the Punjab dugout.
Drafted back into the XI for this match, Miller played an outstanding role with 80 off 41 balls, inclusive of five fours and five sixes. He and Mandeep came together in the seventh over - Adam Gilchrist fell for four and Azhar Mahmood for 0 - and averted a rout with a counter-attacking partnership of 128 which took its time to flourish. After 18 tidy deliveries from which he and Mandeep managed nine singles and three twos, Miller smashed Yuvraj Singh for six over long-on. He then trained his focus on Ajantha Mendis, swatting ten in two balls with great timing.
With Mandeep struggling to run between the wickets and instead reliant on his heaves to the onside, Miller took it upon himself to try and see Punjab home. In the 16th over he swung Wright for six, then took consecutive full tosses from Ashok Dinda for fours. It all boiled down to 16 from one over, and Miller held his composure brilliantly.
Earlier, Wright had struck a ballistic cameo to take Pune to 185 for 4 after stand-in captain Aaron Finch hit another brisk fifty in an 83-run stand. He blasted his first four balls for fours - to cow corner, wide extra cover, between long-on and long-off and midwicket - to ensure 17 came off 18th over which began with Yuvraj (34) falling to Mahmood over.
On his fifth delivery, Wright charged Praveen Kumar and lofted four more over extra cover; on the sixth, a dab to third man went through Parvinder Awana's legs to give Wright another boundary; the seventh was squeezed through midwicket for two; the eighth dumped over midwicket for six; two more came off the next as Wright chipped through midwicket. In nine balls, he had scored 37.
The last over was sedate with Wright falling second ball to Mahmood who reduced the damage to just six in six balls; how crucial that would turn out to be was not envisioned then.
After being asked to bat, Finch was given a huge reprieve on 1 when Gilchrist dropped a simple catch off Mahmood, and replied by lofting the next ball for six. Off the next, he was given four by the fielder at mid-off who let a drive through his legs. Finch was the aggressor in a dominant opening stand with Robin Uthappa, showing a liking for the cut and pull. He latched onto anything fractionally short and with superb placement collected four meaty boundaries through the leg side. Finch got another life on 32 when Mahmood missed the stumps from mid-off with the Australian batsman gone for all money.
By the time Gilchrist held on to a catch, Pune were 83 for 1 midway through the 11th over and Uthappa had 37 to his name. Finch marched on to his fifty with a terrific pick-up shot off Manpreet Gony for six, easily swinging a full ball over midwicket. Gony's response was to drop the next ball short and Finch blasted a pull to put 100 on board for his team. In the end Gony had his man when Finch (64) cracked an aerial cut to sweeper cover first ball of the 16th over.