Dharamsala: On a pitch that gave the fast bowlers something to work with, Adam Gilchrist won an important toss for the Kings XI Punjab and even as a misty haze obscured views of the Dhauladhar range that rings the picturesque Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association stadium in Dharamsala, the Chennai Super Kings all but limped out of the fifth edition of the IPL. Once the Super Kings were kept down to 120, the dice were loaded heavily in favour of the Kings XI, and Gilchrist ensured that there was no way back for the men in yellow with a joyous unbeaten 64 that thrilled a capacity crowd. With this six-wicket win the Kings XI moved to 16 points with one game to play, while the Super Kings' league campaign ended on 17 points.
Gilchrist, who was returning to the playing eleven after a gap of nine matches, assessed the pitch perfectly, and rotated his bowlers shrewdly. Praveen Kumar, who swings the white ball in all conditions, needed no second invitation to get into the thick of things. M Vijay, with little feet movement, attempted to launch Praveen out of the ground, and late movement resulted in an outside edge and the first of four catches for Gilchrist. The Praveen-Gilchrist firm was back in business soon after as Mike Hussey shuffled down the pitch and drove loosely. Praveen was denied a third scalp when Piyush Chawla, at first slip, dropped a sitter offered by Suresh Raina, but figures of 4-0-18-2 showed the way for others who followed.
Azhar Mahmood accounted for Raina and the ever improving Parvinder Awana tightened the screws, drying up the runs and creating opportunities at the same time. When Mahendra Singh Dhoni sliced Awana to third-man for Nitin Saini, the Super Kings were 46 for 4 and well on their way to slumping to a sub-par total. Awana finished up with figures of 4-0-12-2, outdoing even his senior partner. Even with the odd expensive over slipping in, however, Chennai could only get to 120 and this was a score that would take some defending.
While the Kings XI had the advantage of knowing exactly what they needed, and this meant they were not forced to take any unnecessary risks, there was still a need to start well. Gilchrist was positive from the word go, choosing the time to attack wisely and picking areas to target. Mandeep Singh did just enough to ensure that 51 was on the board before the first wicket fell. After Mandeep departed, Chennai chipped away, and some loose cricket meant that wickets fell at one end even as Gilchrist stuck to the task at hand with admirable determination. Try as Chennai did, they simply did not have enough on the board, and it was fitting that Gilchrist was still at the crease on 64 (46b, 9x4, 2x6) when the Kings XI got home with more than three overs to spare.