Punjab stay in the hunt

The Kings XI Punjab earned themselves a stay of execution with a methodical performance to beat the Delhi Daredevils by six wickets in a DLF Indian Premier League match in Bloemfontein on Friday night.

The Kings XI Punjab bowled well after winning the toss to restrict the league-leaders to 120-9 on a slow pitch, which made batting difficult, before knocking off the runs with five balls to spare.

The victors’ pace trio of Brett Lee (3-15), Shanthakumaran Sreesanth (2-20) and Irfan Pathan (2-22) combined well to put a lot of pressure on the opposition.

Sreesanth finally came good after a couple of ordinary performances in earlier games, and man of the match Lee was superb, bowling with pace and accuracy to claim his last two wickets for three runs in his last two overs.

The Kings XI Punjab captain, Yuvraj Singh, was a pretty relieved man after his side had improved their standing to a joint fourth on 12 points. This gives Kings XI Punjab a chance to scrap it out for a semifinal spot.
Singh also heaped praise on Australian fast bowler Brett Lee, who has rebounded strongly after ankle surgery which kept him out of cricket for several months. It is also noticeable that Lee is looking stronger, and has added several kilograms of muscle.

“Brett has been fantastic with his pace, and slower balls,” said Singh, “and he has been helping Sreesanth and Irfan as well”.

“My ankle is feeling really good, which is exciting. I’m pretty happy with the way I bowled, but I’m more pleased with how we performed as a team,” said Lee afterwards.

The Delhi Daredevils’ setback was only their third defeat in 11 matches, and although they are sure to make the semifinals, skipper Virender Sehwag sounded a note of caution.

“T20 is a bad type of cricket. If you start losing, you keep losing and I don’t want to do that,” he said. The Delhi Daredevils play their next game against the Rajasthan Royals in Bloemfontein on Sunday.

When the Delhi Daredevils batted, Lee struck in the third over to remove the dangerous Sehwag for nine. Batting proved a painstaking process, as only Dinesh Karthik (32 off 29 balls) and Mithun Manhas (26 off 25 balls) made any headway for the Delhi Daredevils.

For the Kings XI Punjab, partnerships of 53 for the third wicket between Singh (18 off 31 balls) and Kumar Sangakkara (43 not out off 47 balls, six fours), and an unbroken 35 off 3.2 overs for the fourth wicket between Sangakkara and Irfan Pathan (21 not out of 11 balls, three sixes) made the difference.

The Delhi Daredevils bowlers kept it fairly tight for a while, and the Kings XI Punjab needed 30 runs off the final three overs.

Pathan took the burden on his shoulders, hitting three sixes in quick succession off 18-year-old Pradeep Sangwan and Farveez Maharoof in the 18th and 19th overs to swing matters his side’s way.

Sangakkara said Pathan had been magnificent. Even when the requirement had been around 11 runs to the over at one stage, they had not panicked.

“The plan was just to hit the ball, hit the ball out of the park if you can,” Sangakkara added.

“The wicket wasn’t the easiest to play on, we thought they had had the worst part of the track to bat on,” Sangakkara added.
Singh had a slice of luck, being dropped at first slip by Gautam Gambhir before he had scored, off Ashish Nehra.

Left-arm seamer Nehra (1-6) nevertheless had the satisfaction of equalling the record for the most economical four overs in the league. He shares the mark with Fidel Edwards who had figures of 0-6 for the Deccan Chargers against the Kolkata Knight Riders at the Newlands just last month.—Sapa

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