In a match where both the teams came into on the back of disappointing defeats against Sunrisers Hyderabad, the packed house at Punjab Cricket Association Stadium in Mohali on Sunday (April 21) got its money's worth, with Kings XI Punjab and Pune Warriors India providing a virtual highlights reel of fearless batting.
In the end, Punjab ran out victors by seven wickets with just one ball remaining, and the crowd not only saw a home win, but also rejoiced in Mandeep Singh coming of age with 77 not out off 58 balls and David Miller smashing the leather off in a 41-ball 80. The duo shared a record 128-run stand in just 79 balls. That they had to bat so well was due to Pune providing fireworks of their own with Aaron Finch, captaining the side, hitting a belligerent 64 off 42, and Luke Wright, playing his first game, hitting his first six balls to the fence in a manic ten-ball 34. (Also see: Match in pics)
It was evident that both sides had been hit hard by defeats when Finch strode out for the toss in place of Angelo Mathews, who sat out. With Yuvraj Singh also back, Pune looked like they had finally got their combination right. Punjab's most significant new inclusion was Miller.
When Pune put up 185 for 4 after being put in, there was nothing to indicate how close the match would eventually become. Punjab hadn't collectively made 150 so far in the Pepsi Indian Premier League 2013, and neither did they have an individual fifty, both of which they remedied in style through Mandeep and Miller.
Finch powered Pune at the start and Robin Uthappa began positively as well. Finch had a slice of luck, dropped by Gilchrist off Azhar Mahmood when on one, but after that he took off. Anything wide and short was punished, and Punjab's bowlers provided Finch with plenty of fodder. The openers put on 83 in 10.3 overs before Uthappa fell to Parvinder Awana. (Related watch: Is time running out for Gilly?)
Yuvraj, who scored 34 off 24 balls, kept Pune's scoring rate healthy. When he fell, having taken 14 off the 17th over, Pune were 142 for 3 but then they were then propelled at manic speed by Wright, who ensured that the 17- to 19-over period fetched 51 runs. (All the stats from the match, here)
Punjab lost Gilchrist and Mahmood early, but were brought back on track by the young guns - Mandeep and Manan Vohra. The duo shared a 53-run stand in just 5.3 overs, picking off the boundaries with ease.
When Vohra fell, Miller joined Mandeep for the defining partnership of the match. From 58 for 3 in 6.4 overs, they took the score to 141 for 3 in 16 overs. Boundaries and hard running meant the equation had come down to 16 from the final over, with Wright handed the ball. He couldn't repeat his heroics with the bat, Miller sealing the deal with two sixes over cover.
Punjab successfully overcame their batting bugbear, but even Pune might have found some solace in the fact that though they lost, they fought till the end.