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Azhar Mahmood (C) © Gallo Images

Punjab seal thrilling victory

Azhar Mahmood’s figures of 3-21 proved crucial as the Kings XI Punjab narrowly beat the Kolkata Knight Riders by four runs in their Pepsi IPL clash at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium in Mohali on Tuesday.

Full Scorecard: Punjab v Kolkata

An 18-ball blitz of 42 from Manpreet Gony had earlier steered the hosts to a score of 157 for nine, despite a 15th over hat-trick from Sunil Narine (4-0-33-3). However, the men from Kolkata appeared on course for victory as a 71-ball third-wicket partnership of 105 between Gautam Gambhir (60) and Eoin Morgan (47) had left their team needing just 52 runs from 42 ballls.

But the final twist came as a procession of wickets turned the game in favour of the home side, and the Kings XI attack, led by Mahmood, restricted the Knight Riders to just 153 for nine.

Both teams now have four points to their credit on the table, although Punjab move above Kolkata into fifth spot by virtue of their superior net run-rate.

Having been sent in to bat first by the visitors, the opening duo of Adam Gilchrist (7) and Mandeep Singh (41) took 14 runs from the third over before the out-of-form Gilchrist was trapped in front by Sachithra Senanayake (4-0-28-2) in the fourth over with the score on 24.

The pair of Singh and Manan Vohra (17) consolidated things for the home side, with the former easing the score past 50 in the eighth over as he drilled a full toss past bowler Rajat Bhatia (4-0-30-0) to the boundary. However, Vohra’s hand came to an end an over later as he skied one back to L Balaji (4-0-39-1), and when Singh’s faint edge from the bowling of Jacques Kallis (4-0-24-3) was snared by wicketkeeper Manvinder Bisla at the start of the 11th over, Punjab were struggling at 70 for three.

David Miller (20) and David Hussey (12) played positively in the overs that followed, and took the score to 99 midway through the 15th over. However, it proved to be the pre-cursor to the Narine show.

Hussey was first to go, as the keeper held on to a sharp top-edged cut. Mahmood’s leading edge then lobbed straight back to the gleeful West Indian the following ball to leave the crowd in a stunned silence. And, with the tension building, Narine delivered the first hat-trick of IPL six as his carrom ball dislodged the off stump of Gurkeerat Singh.

The loss of Miller the following over left the innings in tatters at 109 for seven, but some late impetus came from an unlikely source. Gony blasted a four and a six off the 18th over from Balaji, before two sixes and two fours off Narine in the penultimate over catapulted the total to 150.

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The experienced Kallis pegged things back at the end with a double-strike, including the wicket of Gony, but the hosts had reached a competitive total by that stage.

Praveen Kumar (4-0-26-2) then had the crowd on its feet with the very first delivery of the Kolkata innings, as Bisla’s thick edge was held onto by Gilchrist after Mahmood had fumbled at first slip.

Kallis (one) was next in, but he lasted just six deliveries before being well caught at cover off Mahmood to leave his side in disarray at one for two.

Opener Gambhir was then joined by the dangerous Morgan, and the pair set about transferring the pressure from the off. Gambhir struck three successive fours between overs two and three, and a continual flurry of strokes to the fence from the Knight Riders captain catapulted the score to 59 for two by the end of the powerplay.

The momentum of the game continued to take a drastic shift, and Morgan began to find the boundary with as much regularity as his partner. Gambhir brought up his third half-century of this year’s IPL in the 12th over as he turned a Gony (4-0-18-1) delivery through square leg for two, before raising the 100 partnership an over later with an emphatic drive past extra cover for four.

The talismanic Gony did make the breakthrough, however, as Gambhir’s thick edge was well caught by Gilchrist at the start of the 14th over. But at 106 for three, the damage appeared to be done.

Yet for the third time in the match, the game took a significant turn. Morgan became Mahmood’s second victim at the end of the 15th over, as his leading edge was easily snared by Hussey. Manoj Tiwary (one) then had his stumps cleaned up with the first delivery after the strategic time-out, and by the time Mahmood got rid of Debabrata Das (one), Kolkata were suddenly in trouble needing 34 from 16 balls with just four wickets in hand.

A dramatic penultimate over yielded 19 runs, as Yusuf Pathan (13) and Rajat Bhatia (16) struck a four and two sixes between them. However, the latter fell at the end of it to leave Pathan and the remaining batsmen with 13 to get off the final over.

The big moment came off the second delivery of the over, as Miller hung on to a superb catch on the mid-wicket boundary, and, despite two wides from Kumar, the Kings XI held on for a memorable victory.

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KINGS XI PUNJAB: AC Gilchrist (capt & wk), Mandeep Singh, DJ Hussey, DA Miller, Azhar Mahmood, M Vohra, Gurkeerat Singh, PP Chawla, P Kumar, MS Gony, P Awana

KOLKATA KNIGHT RIDERS: MS Bisla (wk), G Gambhir (capt), JH Kallis, YK Pathan, MK Tiwary, EJG Morgan, R Bhatia, DB Das, SMSM Senanayake, SP Narine, L Balaji


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