Royal Challengers Bangalore's up-and-down run in the fifth edition of the Indian Premier League continued with a four-wicket defeat at home to Kings XI Punjab. The vastly improved Punjab side proved again that the IPL is not just about big stars, and that at times, a solid team effort can do the trick. But in the end, nerves came to the fore as Punjab almost threw away a match they should have won at a canter.
Going through Bangalore's run-scoring pattern, it's easy to see why the target for Punjab was only 159 and not more. On the one hand, Chris Gayle smashed the Punjab bowlers around at a strike rate of 169.04, ending with 71 from 42 balls including six fours and four sixes. But at the same time, there were nine overs where five or fewer runs were scored. That included the last over of the innings, where the brilliant Azhar Mahmood conceded just four runs and picked up the wickets of Andrew McDonald and AB de Villiers as Bangalore finished with 158 for five.
It had started positively enough for Bangalore, with Gayle and Virat Kohli controlling the innings well after Mayank Agarwal fell early. Kohli, though, could be blamed somewhat for slowing down the scoring rate, making 45 off 42 balls and playing far too many dot balls along the way. Critically, the slow overs were scattered right through the innings, which meant the Bangalore innings progressed in fits and starts.
The man chiefly responsible for applying the brakes was the hugely impressive Mahmood, who has had a huge impact on Punjab's fortunes since he joined the squad. On the night, Mahmood was miserly, conceding just 20 runs from his four overs and picking up three wickets.
Punjab opened with Mandeep Singh and Shaun Marsh and Mandeep was on a roll again, giving Punjab the edge straightaway in the Power Play overs. Marsh fell early, but Mandeep scored at a healthy clip, making a 30-ball 43. Nitin Saini (in pic) had settled down by then though, and kept the run rate well ahead of the required mark.
If Saini was quick during his 35-ball 50, stand-in-captain David Hussey was a man on a mission. KP Appanna was the first to suffer, being whacked for two sixes in the 13th over. Once Appanna was taken care of, Hussey turned his attention to Asad Pathan in the 16th over - two more sixes.
But that's where, suddenly, there was a dramatic twist in the tale. With only a few runs to get and a lot of balls left, Saini went for one stroke too many to hole out. And then, mindless running saw Mahmood, Hussey and Abhishek Nayar return to the dugout within two overs. It was suddenly a game that could have gone Bangalore's way. Thankfully for Punjab, Piyush Chawla kept his wits about him and pulled R Vinay Kumar over the mid-wicket boundary for a six - match won with just one ball to spare.