Coming into the last match of IPL V at the PCA Stadium, Kings XI Punjab, despite having won half of their 12 fixtures, found themselves third from the bottom in the points table.
Hardly surprising, given the rather unconvincing manner of their wins — in four of them, their bowling proved to be just about adequate to defend totals that ranged between mediocre to reasonable. In the other two, they were chasing totals that were not very big by any yardstick.
The sore point throughout the season has been their batting. With skipper Adam Gilchrist around, the team failed to break the 160-run barrier. With him gone due to injury, KXIP has done so on all but one of the seven previous occasions but only thanks to late-innings cameos by foreign reinforcements Azhar Mahmood and David Miller.
The lack of a pace-setter at the start — their top three run-getters, Mandeep Singh, Shaun Marsh and David Hussey, all have strike rates in the 120s — was hurting them.
In their return match against the Deccan Chargers, KXIP brought back Ryan Harris in place of David Miller, their only batsman this season with a 150 plus strike rate.
By the innings break, they were looking at an asking rate of nearly 10, and perhaps regretting that switch. Needing to better their previous best of the season by much, and with the fight for play-offs berths heating up, Punjab needed at least one of their top three run-getters to up the ante. While Mandeep and Marsh tried to force the issue and fell, stand-in skipper Hussey stepped up to the plate, as did rookie Gurkeerat Singh.
Joining his captain with 42 needed off 20 balls, Gurkeerat should have given Hussey most of the strike.
However, the KXIP were left needing 16 to get off Manpreet Gony's last over, which became 13 off four balls.
Facing his state senior, Gurkeerat slogged Gony for six, lofted him over cover for four, drove him straight for a couple and neatly finished off with a fine hook.
Grassed and grounded
White and Shikhar Dhawan, two bright spots in the Chargers' otherwise lacklustre campaign, came together to smash 96 and left Punjab with a demanding ask.
The hosts were poor in the field. Harris dropped Cameron White off Piyush Chawla; Chawla returned the favour off Azhar Mahmood.
Throws found the boundary instead of the stumps and ones were converted into twos.