Kings XI Punjab gave Adam Gilchrist the perfect going-away gift at the HPCA Stadium in Dharamsala on Saturday (May 18), drubbing table-toppers Mumbai Indians by 50 runs in the Pepsi Indian Premier League 2013 in front of a full house that was understandably disappointed that Sachin Tendulkar was sitting the game out.
There was no personal glory for Gilchrist, who only managed five runs with the bat in his final appearance in the IPL, but his team got together to ensure that the skipper walked away a satisfied man, burying Mumbai under an avalanche of runs.
With Mumbai assured of a top-two finish and Punjab eliminated much before Gilchrist and Rohit Sharma walked out for the toss, there were fears that this match might be short on intensity, but those fears were largely unfounded.
Opting to chase with an eye on the playoffs, Mumbai saw Punjab run away with the game through a wonderful stand of 148 in just 86 deliveries between Shaun Marsh and Azhar Mahmood, Punjab finishing their 20 overs on a massive 183 for 8.
Mumbai rejigged their batting order, sending Ambati Rayudu up at No. 3, but Punjab's bowlers were spot on, not just keeping a tight lid on the scoring but also picking up wickets in quick succession. Mumbai were never in the running as four of the top six all got into the 20s but no one kicked on.
Aditya Tare, Rayudu, Rohit and Kieron Pollard all threatened briefly, but Punjab kept pegging away. Piyush Chawla got rid of both Rohit and Pollard to ensure there was no late twist in the tale as Punjab rounded off their season with their third win in as many matches.
Gilchrist chose to bowl the last over of the game and picked up Harbhajan Singh's wicket with his first delivery - his 13th ball in competitive senior cricket producing his only scalp - as Mumbai settled for 133 all out, Dhawal Kulkarni unable to bat with a side strain. The result must have come as a wake-up call for Mumbai ahead of Qualifier 1 against Chennai Super Kings in New Delhi on Tuesday (May 22).
There was a bit of movement for Mumbai's all-new new-ball attack of Nathan Coulter-Nile, making his IPL debut, and Rishi Dhawan, the local lad. Dhawan accounted for Mandeep Singh in his first over and Coulter-Nile ensured there was no brilliant personal swansong for Gilchrist.
At 6 for 2 early in the third over, Punjab were in some bother, but as it turned out, Marsh was having none of it. Unlike in the previous game where he lost fluency after a strong start, Marsh batted at top gear all the way through his 47-ball 63, capitalising on indiscretions in length and scoring freely on both sides of the wicket. Kulkarni's arrival at the bowling crease in the sixth over at 22 for 2, catalysed a discernible shift in momentum as Punjab pulled away with a sensational, sustained assault.
With three boundaries in four deliveries off Kulkarni, Marsh shed the shackles. Kulkarni left the field after that and the over was completed by Rohit. Then came that stunning passage of play as Mahmood initially matched Marsh stroke for stroke, then unleashed such mayhem that Mumbai were left completely shell-shocked.
Ironically enough, it was Lasith Malinga, arguably the best Twenty20 bowler going, who stoked Mahmood's attacking instincts. Having reached two off six deliveries, Mahmood cut loose with three delectable fours to follow up a top-edged six in Malinga's first over, which yielded 20. Marsh intelligently ceded centrestage to Mahmood, who then picked on Glenn Maxwell with two sixes and a four in his only over.
Nine of the 20 overs bowled by Mumbai fetched ten runs or more as Punjab smashed 24 fours and five sixes. Mumbai's fielding was ragged, their catching shoddy with Mahmood dropped by Coulter-Nile and Marsh put down by Harbhajan, both in the same Dhawan over.
By the time Harbhajan went under Marsh's slog and rattled timber, the third-wicket pair had put the game beyond Mumbai's reach. Mahmood's dismissal in the next over for 80 off just 44 deliveries, trapped in front by Malinga who went on to become the first bowler to take 100 IPL wickets, put the brakes on the scoring somewhat, though Manan Vohra did provide the final thrust with an eight-ball 20.