The smile was back on Preity Zinta’s face as Kings XI Punjab recorded their first win of the event. A target of 169 set by Royal Challengers wasn’t too easy under lights at the Kingsmead but a dynamic innings from Ravi Bopara (85; 59 balls, 4×4, 5×6) and Yuvraj Singh ensured a comfortable win in the end.
After a couple of handy contributions but Karan Goel and Kumar Sangakkara, Bopara and Yuvraj decided to tee off. In the last six overs, they needed 66, but Bopara made an absolute mockery of the chase, hitting five huge sixes that swung the game in Kings XI’s favour.
Bopara got out with 11 to get off 12 balls but by then, the game had been done and dusted. Yuvraj ensured a safe passage and Preity’s boys were home with an over to spare.
Earlier, Yusuf Abdulla helped Kings XI keep the Royals’ score down to manageable proportions. He got one to jump on Kevin Pietersen which the Royal Challengers skipper couldn’t keep down. Rahul Dravid (10) too couldn’t keep it going and Kings XI Punjab looked to be taking control.
But there was one man in the Royal Challengers rank who had other ideas. Jacques Kallis (62 off 46 balls) probably had to show the world that if his contemporaries could do well in this format, so could he. As the wickets kept falling at one end, Kallis stood like a rock, steadying the Royal Challengers ship.
The Kings XI pace attack got clobbered time and again by the South African veteran. Whenever the ball was pitched up, he hit over the top. He played the short ball well too, until local boy Abdulla got him with a bouncer.
Abdulla, who knows the Kingsmead conditions like the back of his hand, got one to rise above Kallis’ shoulder, and the allrounder, committed on his front foot, couldn’t keep the ball down and offered a catch to deep square-leg.
Abdulla, rated as one of the best T20 bowlers in South Africa, kept varying the length time and again, making things difficult for the Royal Challengers.
But it started to go awry in the last over when Praveen Kumar pulled one over mid-on, off the very first ball. Ross Taylor, too, hit him for a six over square leg, and the score threatened to look bigger.
But Abdulla (4-31) pitched one right up and Taylor, trying to flick over the top, holed out in the deep. Irfan, bowling the last over, was right on the button, dismissing a dangerous looking Praveen and Pankaj Singh off the first two deliveries. Anil Kumble played out the hat-trick ball, but all that the Royal Challengers men could manage was seven runs in the last over.