Skipper Adam Gilchrist finally led from the front with a dazzling unbeaten 85 to guide Kings XI Punjab to a comfortable seven-wicket victory over Royal Challengers Bangalore in a Pepsi Indian Premier League match here today.
Chasing a stiff target of 175, Gilchrist blazed his way to a 54-ball-85 which had 10 fours and three huge sixes as his team romped home with 11 balls to spare, thereby keeping doors of the play-offs open.
Kings XI with 12 points from 14 matches now are in sixth position — courtesy better net run-rate than defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders who are also on 12 points.
The win also helped Gautam Gambhir’s men stay in contention as an RCB victory would have decisively shut the doors. The defeat for RCB also made the situation tricky for Virat Kohli and co, who now have 16 points from 15 games and will need to win their final game at any cost.
The foundation of this win was laid by two veterans Gilchrist and ‘T20 freelancer’ Azhar Mahmood, who added 118 runs for the second wicket. Mahmood scored 61 off 41 balls with eight fours and a six.
The duo, whose cumulative age is 79 years, proved that there is no substitute of experience as they both brought in their oodles of experience in international cricket to pave the way for an easy win.
This was after Zaheer Khan, who made a comeback in competitive cricket after nearly five months cleaned up Shaun Marsh in his very second over.
It was Mahmood, who first gave the charge hitting Moises Henriques for three successive boundaries in the last over of the Powerplay (6th).
Taking a cue from Mahmood’s posituve approach, Gilchrist, who had only one score of 40 plus in the tournament also got into the groove as he hit some cracking strokes.
The Aussie dasher brought up his half century with a straight six off Zaheer. The stand-out hit will however be the the inside out six over extra cover off Muttiah Muralitharan.
He followed it up with another six — a slog sweep over deep square leg.
It was Rajagopal Sathish, who finished the proceedings with a bowler’s back-drive.
Earlier, Chris Gayle’s power-hitting in the back 10 and ably complemented by skipper Virat Kohli enabled Royal Challengers Bangalore to reach a challenging 174 for five after being put into bat.
While Gayle helped himself to a 53-ball-77 with the help of four boundaries and six huge sixes, skipper Kohli’s contribution of 57 off 43 balls (6×4, 2×6) was equally significant in their 137-run second wicket stand.
In fact the final six overs of the innings produced a whopping 86 runs with Gayle hitting Manpreet Gony for three successive sixes with 22 runs coming off the 15th over of the innings.
With Kohli hitting Parvinder Awana for a six and a four, 15 runs came off the very next over. RCB got the required momentum which seemed missing during the first 10 overs when Gayle was more intent on pushing for singles and twos as he couldn’t consistently get the big hits going in his favour.
RCB completed 50 runs only in the 10th over and with Gayle still at the crease, it was something that even the die-hard home team fans couldn’t believe.
For the Kings XI, Awana had the best figures of three for 39 while Mahmood was certainly the most effective bowler with clever variation and mix that he used to finish with two for 24 in 4 overs.
The start wasn’t a great one for the RCB as Cheteshwar Pujara (19, 20 balls, 3×4) failed to get going. Pujara failed to clear the in-field but also couldn’t rotate the strike and give more deliveries to Gayle during his time at the crease.
In the end, Pujara slashed one from Awana to give a catch to David Miller at backward point. The Gayle-Kohli combination which has worked wonders for the RCB again came into forefront as both played confidently. They were watchful for the first few overs but then unleashed a barrage of strokes on the Kings XI batsmen.