The last over bowled by Azhar Mahmood was a captain's dream. Not only did he give away just four runs but also picked up two wickets. On a seaming M Chinnaswamy stadium pitch, it was once again the former Pakistan all-rounder's spell that helped Kings XI Punjab maintain control over a Royal Challengers Bangalore innings that threatened to explode on Wednesday.
Kings XI were coasting in reply when three shocking run-outs in a row suddenly put their victory hopes in danger before they squeaked through in the end, completing a four-wicket win with a ball to spare.
Mahmood’s spell earlier acted as a catalyst in restricting RCB to 158 for five. Apart from his skill at the death that bamboozled the RCB batsmen, he also managed to stop the Gayle-led batting effort. Mahmood had Gayle caught at long on after the West Indian tore apart Parvinder Awana's medium pace and feasted on short leg-spinners from Piyush Chawla. The Jamaican had even dispatched Nayar to the roof of the stadium.
But just after the Nayar over had netted RCB 16 runs, stand-in captain David Hussey brought himself on to bowl his sliding off-spinners. And he managed to stifle Gayle.
To begin with, it was Praveen Kumar who put his swing bowling to good use. The amount of movement the medium-pacer generated was just enough to baffle the RCB batsmen and keep the scoring down. By the time Kumar completed his spell, RCB were struggling at less than six runs per over, at 37 for one in seven overs.
Later, the 20-year-old Mandeep Singh (43) from Jalandhar continued his rich form to give the visitors an aggressive start. Right from the start, the Punjab batsman pulled and lofted Zaheer Khan and Vinay Kumar, showing no signs of backing down. His innings only came to an end after he misjudged the length of a K Appanna delivery, to be adjudged LBW while attempting a sweep.
Hussey and Nitin Saini (50) made sure the spinner did not settle down. Hussey even hit Appanna for a four followed by two sixes over long-off off consecutive balls. In the process, he also became the first batsmen in T20s to score 4500 runs.
Saini, who had played Daniel Vettori's spin with supreme confidence, continued to display his impressive talent as he scored his maiden T20 fifty. And once Hussey greeted the start of the last five overs and Asad Pathan's spell with a straight six, Kings XI were approaching safer shores. Even the spate of run-outs and a superb last over of Zaheer Khan wasn’t enough.