The big three of Gilchrist, Marsh and Miller all made brisk 40s to set up the home team's seven-run win over Delhi that took Punjab to 14 points. (BCCI)
Dharamsala: On a dark day that seriously threatened the IPL's credibility, Kings XI Punjab maintained their focus of trying to make it to the play-offs with a seven-run win over Delhi Daredevils at their second home of Dharamsala. Delhi picked five bowlers and opted to field but the desired impact was sorely missing as Punjab's big three batsmen produced busy innings to drive the score to 171 for 4, which ended up being too much for a jittery Delhi batting line-up.
At this very picturesque venue in 2011, Punjab had beaten Delhi to keep their campaign alive. Tonight, needing a win to remain in the hunt for the play-offs, Punjab found inspiration from the top in the form of Adam Gilchrist and Shaun Marsh before David Miller roared back to form with a brutal unbeaten 44 off 24 balls.
Gilchrist received a slice of luck on 8 when he uppercut Morne Morkel to third man where Umesh Yadav spilled a catch. He grabbed that chance by taking three boundaries - two over mid-off and the other slashed over slip - and two sixes off Ashish Nehra, lofting down the ground and slashing over deep point as Punjab took 53 off the Powerplay.
Gilchrist's punchy innings ended on 42 when he skied a return catch to Irfan Pathan and four overs later Azhar Mahmood departed for 9 when well held on the boundary by Siddarth Kaul off Nehra. Marsh pulled out a few pleasing shots - his off-side strokes whizzed off the bat - in his 45 until he was caught at long-on off Morkel.
The last five overs produced 68 as Miller unleashed the fury in a burst of big hits. One of his sixes went out of the ground and another hit the dome of the roof. Whether full or short, Punjab's pacers were caned at the death by Miller who backed away in his crease to produce stunning short-arm jabs and clean swings of the bat. Kaul was taken for two sixes and a four by Miller in an 18-run 18th over and in the next Yadav went for 17 with Miller dumping a big six over long-on and R Sathish shuffling across the stumps to scoop two boundaries. Nehra limited the damage in a good final over that cost just six for the wicket of Sathish (22) but the efforts of Gilchrist, Marsh and Miller had done enough.
Where Delhi's quicks had struggled for potency, Punjab's made early inroads to set the visiting team back. Praveen Kumar beat Unmukt Chand (7) with his length and Sandeep Sharma began with a doube-wicket maiden over. Irfan, sent in at No. 3, played seven deliveries for one run before poking Sandeep to Gilchrist and off the next delivery David Warner edged to Marsh at first slip. At 12 for 3 in four overs, the game was effectively over as a contest.
Mahela Jayawardene failed to make much of a drop by Mahmood in the slips, eating up 42 balls for his 39. Virender Sehwag made 30 off 22 balls and Ben Rohrer 49 off 29 balls including three sixes, but the asking rate remained out of Delhi's reach. Needing 22 off the last over, Rohrer was bowled off the first ball Piyush Chawla and two big sixes from Morkel were not enough to really bother Punjab. This was Delhi's fifth defeat in a row.