The match between Pune Warriors and Kings XI Punjab at Chandigarh on Sunday was among the most closely-contested games of this season. Not surprisingly it needed two moderately gifted sides to produce a thrilling encounter. In a game where both sides put up their best batting effort even as their bowlers struggled, the difference proved to be one excellent partnership, which gave Punjab a much sought after win. To be fair to Pune, they matched Punjab in most departments on the day, but just did not have the wherewithal to hold the hosts at the end.
Punjab were chasing a huge total for a T20 game, and in that respect, they were hoping for a miracle – a big innings from Adam Gilchrist. It wasn’t to be as the ageing skipper fell early once again. And when the promotion of Azhar Mahmood also proved to be a blatant failure, Punjab were well and truly on the back foot. Manan Vohra and Mandeep Singh held fort for a while, but the alliance did not last long enough to raise hopes of a Punjab triumph. From there on, they needed something special, and got it.
Mandeep and David Miller combined in a wonderful partnership that turned the game on its head. The most striking aspect of their partnership was that the run-rate was telling when they got together, but that is also something that indirectly worked in their favour. Knowing that the only way Punjab were going to get to the target was by attacking the bowlers, Mandeep and Miller did not hold back. They played some highly classy strokes, which first resurrected the innings, and then led them on the victory path. The best part of their pairing was that they complemented each other perfectly. While Miller was the aggressor till the very end, Mandeep gave him very good company, himself playing some great shots when needed.
Pune wouldn’t have been thinking of a loss after the kind of start they got. Robin Uthappa and Aaron Finch, the latter being the skipper for this clash, played some bright strokes at the top of the innings to get Pune going. While Uthappa would have been disappointed to have not carried on after getting a start, Finch ensured that he stayed long enough to lead Pune to a highly challenging target. Yuvraj Singh also played a breezy knock to aid Pune’s cause while Luke Wright was sensational, his 10-ball blitz, it appeared, would have been the big difference.
To their credit Punjab weren’t unfazed, and even after losing big wickets early at the top, they kept their run-rate intact. The bowling from both sides was poor, but at the end of the day, Punjab had just a little more in their kitty as opposed to Pune. As it often happens during a big chase, the hosts were aided by the fact that they knew what to chase. It definitely worked in their favour in this case.
Turning point of the game: Pune’s Luke Wright blasted 34 off 10 balls, but then gave away 35 in 2.5 overs , including 16 off the last five balls , to sink Pune’s fortunes.
--By A Cricket Analyst