Mohali: On a track tailor-made for big hitting, it was only one team – visitors Rajasthan Royals – who did their share of finding the boundary. Hosts Kings XI Punjab lost the toss, and then wilted under the pressure of chasing and of the runs stacked against them. They needed 178 to win, but in the end, finished well short of the target to slip below Rajasthan to sixth place on the points table.
Rahul Dravid is one of very few Indian captains in the IPL who would choose to bat first on the Mohali track. But then, true bounce with the ball coming on to the bat nicely is the perfect track for a team with the batting class that Rajasthan has. And though tournament hero Ajinkya Rahane went early, Dravid and Shane Watson put the Punjab bowlers to the sword straightaway, proving Dravid's decision correct.
The mayhem started in the fourth over, bowled by Ryan Harris, where Dravid sent the last three balls whistling along the ground for boundaries. Praveen Kumar and Parvinder Awana were the next to suffer as Watson joined the party and the Indian captain's classical strokeplay was complemented by the big Australian's power-hitting, often over the boundary.
Though wickets fell intermittently – Dravid out for 46 from 39 balls and Watson for 36 from 17 – Rajasthan were always well on their way to a total of around 200, as they reached 110 for the loss of two wickets after 12 overs. But though Ashok Menaria kept up the good work and there were some big hits towards the end from Brad Hodge and Johan Botha, the total was only 177 for six.
Too few on a super batting track? Maybe.
But for that to be true, Punjab needed to put together big partnerships and score at close to ten an over from the start. They did neither. Shaun Marsh did hit five fours and a six in his 27-ball 34, but local boys Mandeep Singh and Nitin Saini fell early, and the consolidation never really took flight. Dravid's overseas bowling trio – Australians Watson and Shaun Tait and South African Botha – were all brilliant, picking two wickets each and going for just around five an over.
Punjab finished eight down for 134 and Rajasthan were worthy winners by a whopping 43 runs. Their campaign is back on track, while for Punjab, it's back to the drawing board.