Top-flight cricket coaches speak often of the value of momentum in a series or tournament. The Deccan Chargers, who have had a nightmare season in IPL 5, are discovering just what it means to be at the wrong end of a roll. Kumar Sangakkara's team can't seem to do anything to buck the trend of losses, and on Sunday night Kings XI Punjab were the beneficiaries, and kept their slim hopes of making the play-offs hanging by a thread after a rousing four-wicket last-ball win.
When Sangakkara, who rang in the changes in his team, won the toss and chose to bat on a pitch he is very familiar with at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium in Mohali, a tall score was in the offing. Shikhar Dhawan, who slammed 84 in the Chargers' previous game - a loss against Delhi Daredevils - ensured that hopes were kept afloat. Strong on the leg-side, Dhawan lifted sixes in the arc from long-on to fine-leg off slow and fast bowler alike to set the pace. A stuttering start from Parthiv Patel and a failure from Sangakkara did little to slow the Chargers down as Dhawan and Cameron White made merry. In a 96-run fourth-wicket partnership that came off an even 10 overs, the duo pushed the score to 145 before Dhawan fell for an invaluable 71 off only 50 balls. White kept up the pressure, romping to an unbeaten 41-ball 67 and with Dan Christian using the long handle to good effect the Chargers ended on a strong 190 for 4.
The return of Dale Steyn alone, who had recovered from a sore foot, should have been enough to ensure that the Chargers did not allow a game that was in their grasp to slip. For the best part of the chase this held true. The Kings XI, despite useful contributions, lost four of their top-order wickets with only 100 on the board in the 13th over. Then came a turnaround that could scarcely have been predicted. David Hussey, keeping his end up and applying pressure on the Chargers, watched in incredulous joy as the hitherto unknown 21-year-old Gurkeerat Singh pulled off a fairytale finish. Even experienced batsmen rarely smash 29 off 12 in a tight finish, but that was exactly what Gurkeerat managed, including a nerveless final over off which 16 runs were needed. Manpreet Gony managed to concede just three off the first two balls of that fateful over, but Gurkeerat then exploded in a sequence of 6424 that sealed the game.