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The perennial underdogs of the Indian Premier League, the Kings XI Punjab, picked up another big scalp on Wednesday night in Bangalore, stunning the Royal Challengers by 4 wickets in a game which went right down to the wire. There were a lot of heroes tonight for Punjab, which is the way it really needs to be for this side bereft of any genuine match-winners to challenge one of the biggest sides in the tournament. Batting first, the Royal Challengers Bangalore made just 158/5 in their 20 overs despite a 42-ball 71 from West Indian superstar Chris Gayle. Azhar Mahmood chipped in with 3 crucial wickets and conceded just 20 runs from his 4 overs, while Praveen Kumar had exceptional figures, allowing just 8 runs from his quota. Useful partnerships from their top order, which included 40s from Mandeep Singh and David Hussey, and a maiden half-century from Nitin Saini took Punjab to 146/2 in the 17th over before 4 quick wickets including three run outs brought the game alive. The ability to keep one's head while all around you are losing their's is what makes a champion, and Piyush Chawla came to Punjab's rescue by dispatching the 5th ball of the final over into the stands to win the match for his team. The results sees Punjab leap from 8th to 4th in the IPL table, thus giving them a decent chance of making the knock-out rounds with 6 games left to play.
There was a sense of anticipatory calm in Bangalore after what was a terrific thunder storm last night, as Kings XI Punjab invaded Royal Challengers territory, and had the audacity to win the toss and opt to field first. The Bangalore fans were far from disappointed, wondering what their adopted son Chris Gayle would serve up on what has been a gorgeous batting deck so far in the tournament. There was no room for Tillakaratne Dilshan in the Bangalore line-up tonight with the team opting to strengthen their bowling by giving Asad Pathan his first outing of season 5, also drafting in Australian allrounder Andrew McDonald for Harshal Patel. There was still no Adam Gilchrist at the top of the order for Punjab, who were once again skippered by David Hussey. The Punjab side did have a surprise up their sleeve though, bringing in Aussie paceman Ryan Harris into the team for Proteas batsman David Miller in their only 'foreign change', while also giving Abhishek Nayar and Paras Dogra rare outings.
As both captains anticipated, there was a little bit in the pitch early on with Praveen Kumar bowling a peach of a first over to Mayank Agarwal, conceding just one run. Ryan Harris' introduction to the IPL was entertaining to say the least with Agarwal lacing his first ball over point for 6. Harris though responded in perfect fashion, disturbing the batsman's furniture a couple of balls later to make it 7/1. Praveen Kumar sneaked in another quiet over before Ryan Harris' evening became even more eventful with Chris Gayle choosing to take on the seamer, powering three consecutive boundaries to end the 4th over. The incredible tale of two seamers continued unabated as Praveen's figures read an incredible 3-0-4-0 at the end of 5 overs. Parvinder Awana sneaked in an 8 run over to end the powerplay with RCB just 33/1, before David Hussey decided to bowl out Praveen Kumar, who went through his spell without conceding a boundary.
Despite those miserly four overs from PK, the Royal Challengers made decent progress, posting 59 runs at the half-way stage of their innings for the loss of just 1 wicket. Chris Gayle had just started to stretch those long arms of his, smashing Piyush Chawla for his first maximum of the day, while Virat Kohli had also made his way into the twenties.
The tide turned in favour of the home side in the 12th over as Gayle launched Chawla into orbit twice more as 18 runs came off the over. In the very next over, substitute David Miller might have just cost Punjab the match by dropping Gayle off Awana when on 39. The West Indian cashed in instantly as 19 runs came off the over with Gayle also recording yet another half-century.
With his regular bowlers getting carted around the park, Hussey threw the ball to Nayar. Kohli though decided to join the fun and launched him into the stands as Bangalore pocketed another 16 run over. A return for Azhar Mahmood finally brought about Chris Gayle's downfall for 71, with Miller hanging on to a chance on this occasion. There was likely to be no respite for Punjab though as an in-form AB de Villiers came out at no.4. In the very next over Piyush Chawla dismissed Virat Kohli for 45, and that proved to be a crucial moment in this game.
That final push that most would have anticipated at the fag end of the innings never really arrived with Azhar Mahmood picking up the wickets of Andrew McDonald (9) and De Villiers (17) to keep Bangalore down to 158/5 from their 20 overs. Mahmood finished his 4 overs with incredible figures of 3-20 and had given Punjab more than an even chance of getting something from this game.
The Kings XI got off to a good start, taking 11 runs off Zaheer Khan's opening over. Mandeep Singh had taken a special liking for the Indian seamer and helped himself to another boundary and the first six of the innings off Zaheer's next over. A change of bowling worked wonders for Bangalore with McDonald striking in his first over to remove Shaun Marsh for 8. Despite the setback, Punjab finished the powerplay well to post 53/1.
Nitin Saini was bumped back up to no.3 for this game and started stitching together a useful partnership with 'Mandy'. Sadly for Punjab though they lost Singh for 43, trapped leg before by Appanna in his very first over. Saini took on the mantle of the senior player and Punjab were perfectly placed at 80/2 at the end of 10 overs.
Skipper David Hussey walked in at no.4 and took a while to find his feet before lashing out against Appanna, hitting the left-arm spinner for a four and two sixes on consecutive deliveries. Heading into the last 6 overs the game was Punjab's to lose with them needing just another 37 runs to wrap up another crucial win.
In what appeared a trend in this game, the newest bowler to be introduced Asad Pathan was greeted with a 6 back over his head. David Hussey added another maximum later in the over to bring the equation down to just 13 from 4 overs.
Nitin Saini fell for an even 50, his first in the IPL to Andrew McDonald, brining Azhar Mahmood out to the middle. Punjab seemed intent on making a match of this with the former Pakistani allrounder getting run out for 2 in the following over.
With 7 required from 12 balls, Punjab committed hara-kiri in the penultimate over with David Hussey (45) and Abhishek Nayar (2) also getting run out. The over conceded just 2, leaving Punjab with 5 to get from the last over bowled by Vinay Kumar.
The nerves really were jangling in that final over with the equation coming down to 2 from 2 after Dogra sneaked 3 runs from the first 4 deliveries. Piyush Chawla, who had cost Punjab a game against Mumbai a couple of weeks ago when he went for 27 runs in the penultimate over, was offered an opportunity at redemption, and the little champion grasped it with both hands by depositing the next ball from Vinay Kumar into the stands to win the game for Punjab.
The Kings XI will head home next where they take on a struggling Rajasthan Royals side in the 8pm kick-off on Saturday. The Royal Challengers meanwhile have an extra day to recover from this debacle as they continue to enjoy home comforts against the Deccan Chargers on Sunday night.
RCB: C Gayle, M Agarwal, V Kohli, AB de Villiers (wk), S Tiwary, A McDonald, D Vettori (c), A Pathan, Vinay Kumar, Zaheer Khan, K Appanna.
KXIP: N Saini (wk), M Singh, S Marsh, DJ Hussey (c), A Mahmood, P Dogra, A Nayar, R Harris, P Chawla, P Kumar, P Awana
Royal Challengers Bangalore 158/5 (20 overs, 7.9rpo)
C Gayle 71 (42) A Mahmood 3-20
V Kohli 45 (42) P Kumar 0-8
Kings XI Punjab 163/6 (19.5 overs, 8.2rpo)
N Saini 50 (36) A McDonald 2-25
D Hussey 45 (29) KP Appanna 1-30
Punjab win by 4 wickets with a ball to spare
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