Mohali: Dimitri Mascarenhas and Shaun Marsh were the architects of a comfortable win for Kings XI Punjab, their first this IPL after a poor start to the season. Mascarenhas picked up his second five-for in Twenty20 cricket, in conditions perfectly suited to his accuracy and medium pace. His performance helped bowl out Pune Warriors for just 115 on a slow track, and Shaun Marsh ensured the chase was on track with a composed half-century that marked his own return to form.
On a Mohali track that had some grass and one that was livened up with some rain on Wednesday night, the Kings XI seamers justified their captain's decision to field, deriving swing and movement with some accurate bowling and picking up wickets at a steady pace in the process. After the early loss of Jesse Ryder, who was run out thanks to a late decision against a single by his partner Sourav Ganguly, Praveen Kumar, Parvinder Awana and Mascarenhas went about slowing down the innings considerably. Praveen got significant away movement and surprised the batsmen with ones that nipped back in.
The top order hasn't really fired for the Warriors and the trend continued. After promising much with a couple of delightful shots, Ganguly was dismissed thanks to the introduction of Mascarenhas. He dismissed Ganguly with some away movement that produced a leading edge, and saw off an edgy Samuels with a lovely delivery that moved just at the right time to clip the off stump.
At the other end, with the Warriors struggling Robin Uthappa was forced to curb his natural instincts but found an able partner in Mithun Manhas, whose swift running and busy approach didn't allow his side to buckle down significantly. Interspersed between a spate of singles and twos were a couple of useful boundaries from Manhas, a wristy smack over Piyush Chawla's head standing out.
The 26-run stand for the fifth wicket ended when Uthappa holed out against Mascarenhas in his second spell and Steven Smith followed not long after, bowled off an inside edge. Smith and Uthappa had played a critical role in the Warriors' previous two wins, chipping in with cameos that proved crucial in the outcome, but weren't able to push on today.
Mascarenhas returned to trouble the Warriors more in his final spell, and wasn't perturbed when struck for a huge six over extra cover by Manhas. He stuck to a straight line, bowling Manhas the very next ball as he tried the scoop, and picked his fifth as Rahul Sharma skied one to deep midwicket; the innings was wrapped up shortly after.
Barring a first-ball setback when Paul Valthaty was cleaned up by Ashok Dinda, Kings XI never really strayed off the track in the chase. Marsh, whose last seven Test innings have yielded just 17 runs, began his innings in style, pulling Dinda through midwicket. It didn't help the Warriors that their fielding was poor, with misfields, overthrows, a missed run-out and a couple of dropped catches preventing them from putting up a fight.
Together with Gilchrist, Marsh saw off the early pressure with two crunching boundaries off Samuels through the off side and Gilchrist matched him, smacking Angelo Mathews for successive fours in the last over of the field restrictions. Marsh, who was reprieved when on 31 and 41, was ruthless when offered width and his adeptness at playing the pull allowed the Warriors bowlers little margin for error. Both timing and power were on display, a classy flick over midwicket off Ashish Nehra and a towering six over long-on off Rahul Sharma typifying both those features.
Piyush Chawla, promoted above David Hussey, gave Marsh good company and sealed the win, the Warriors doing their bit to hasten the win through some sloppy fielding.