It was back to familiar territory for Bangalore on Monday night. Fresh from a morale-boosting, last-over victory against Hyderabad two evenings ago, they had their backs to the wall against an all-Indian attack — apart from a solitary over of military medium-pace from Australian James Hopes.
Rahul Dravid's team collapsed to its fifth defeat in seven matches as Mohali strengthened their claim as title contenders with their fifth consecutive victory, this time by six wickets. Chasing an insufficient total of 126, Mohali romped home with 10 balls to spare. Mohali moved to second on the table, behind Jaipur (who have played a game less), though both have 10 points each. Mohali captain Yuvraj Singh had everything going his way. On a pitch that had enough assistance for the seamers, his decision to bowl was justified by his medium-pacers.
Bangalore got off to the worst possible start, losing two wickets in the first over and immediately giving the visitors the initiative. Wasim Jaffer's inconsistency came to the fore yet again as he was done in by a Sreesanth out-swinger. In another exhibition of superb seam bowling, Sreesanth brought one in sharply to Cameron White, recalled after a long absence, dislodging his middle stump for a first-ball duck.
<b1>Virat Kohli, slowly finding his feet in the big stage and who opened for the first time in the IPL, batted sensibly for 34 and gave captain Dravid tremendous support for the third-wicket stand worth 54.
Three ducks at the top of the order - and five overall, an IPL record - is no encouraging sign. And from 15 for three, you only expect miracles to take your team to a comfortable position. Nothing like that happened. Despite Dravid's highest T20 score — a 51-ball 66 (9x4, 1x6) -— Bangalore could not walk with their heads held high.
The battle-hardened Dravid took the onus upon himself and batted like a man possessed. He was angry that his batsmen, barring Kohli, did not apply themselves. His attacking strokes towards the later part of the innings came as a relief for the hosts. He found the gaps for fours, and a flat six through covers off V.R.V. Singh stood out. But Dravid's efforts did not mean much in the context of the match. Despite Praveen Kumar's brilliance with the ball, who thrived on the bounce that the pitch offered, Mohali were never threatened at any stage.
Shaun Marsh only got stronger and his third straight sizeable knock in as many games shut the hosts out. The left-handed Western Australian played second fiddle, as West Indian Ramnaresh Sarwan thrust his front foot forward and drove handsomely through the covers repeatedly for fours. Marsh, then, came into his own after Sarwan's departure.
Jaffer c Kaul b Sreesanth (4b) 0
Kohli c Sreesanth b Pathan (36) 34
White b Sreesanth (1) 0
Kallis run out (Marsh) (3) 0
Dravid c Jayawardene b Singh (51) 66
Misbah lbw b Chawla (7) 8
Kumar c Kaul b Chawla (2) 0
Patil run out (Pathan) (1) 4
Khan b Chawla (1) 0
Kumble run out (Kaul) (7) 3
Steyn not out (3) 1
Extras (lb-1, w-9) 10
Total (all out; in 19.2 overs) 126
Fall of wickets:1-1, 2-1, 3-15, 4-69, 5-98, 6-98, 7-102, 8-116, 9-124, 10-126.
Bowling: Sreesanth 4-0-16-2, Pathan 3.2-0-13-1, Gagandeep 3-0-28-0, VRV 4-0-33-1, Chawla 4-0-25-3, Hopes 1-0-10-0.
Marsh b Khan (34 b) 39
Hopes c White b Khan (4) 5
Sarwan c Patil b Praveen (29) 31
Yuvraj c Patil b Praveen (4) 1
Jayawardene not out (22) 17
I Pathan not out (17) 17
Extras (lb-10, w-7) 17
Total (for 4 wkts; 18.2 overs) 127
Fall of wkts: 1-11, 2-65, 3-81, 4-106
Bowling: Steyn 4-0-16-0, Zaheer 4-0-29-2, Praveen 4-1-22-2, Kallis 3-0-14-0, Kumble 3.2-0-36-0.