What Yuvraj had not done in last three matches, he has achieved in the third ball of super over with a reverse sweep in the bowling of Muralitharan that gave his team a nerve-cracking win, their first win in this season.
Juan Theron, playing his first IPL match and Punjab’s bowling hero in the regulation time, bowled Matthew Hayden off the second ball in the Super Over, and despite a slogged six from Suresh Raina, once again 10 were needed in the last over. Muttiah Muralitharan was hit for a six first ball by Mahela Jayawardene, but he came back with a wicket and a dot to set the match up again. Yuvraj chose that extremely nervous moment to execute a delicate reverse-sweep, a shot he hardly ever uses, to finish the game off with two balls to go.
In the chase, even after a 65-run opening stand, the Chennai Super Kings batsmen contrived to be needing 10 runs off the last over. Fittingly for a match of low quality, the last over of the regulation game – bowled by Irfan and faced by Albie Morkel and R Ashwin – read: edge for four, missed slog for two byes thanks to an overthrow, single, another edge for two, a missed waft, and a powerful, nervous hit straight to mid-off with one needed off the last ball.
While chasing Punjab’s modest total of 136 for 8, Chennai Super Kings were cruising at one point at 96 for 1 after 12 overs. However, they slumped to 121 for 5 even though Parthiv Patel continued to anchor the innings and winning looked just a matter of time. Patel scored a fine half-century (57) and almost won the match for the team, but fell in the 18 over, suddenly leaving the team struggling at 121 for 5. The match turned on its head thereafter. Theron bowled the penultimate over brilliantly and bowled out MS Gony, creating further pressure on the host. Irfan was entrusted by Sangakkara to bowl the last over in which CSK needed 10 runs to win the match.
Fittingly for a match of low quality, the last over of the regulation game – bowled by Irfan and faced by Albie Morkel and R Ashwin – read: edge for four, missed slog for two byes thanks to an overthrow, single, another edge for two, a missed waft, and a powerful, nervous hit straight to mid-off with one needed off the last ball.
Earlier, it was yet another disappointing outing for Kings XI Punjab batsmen. Only Irfan Pathan (39), who was promoted to open the innings and Yuvraj Singh (43) who got back into form, got some runs. In the end, they could only manage a modest 136 for 8.
Ravi Bopara, who was in good form, failed to provide a good start and was dismissed cheaply by Morkel. Pathan who cracked some stunning boundaries and Kumar Sangakkara who was struggling again put a valuable 36-run partnership for the second wicket.
Between the spells of ordinary cricket from Punjab came Murali’s genius. In his first over, inside the Powerplay, he beat Sangakarra twice in the flight, but the real beauty came in his second. This time he didn’t bowl it flat when he saw Sangakkara charging down, just got it to dip more and then the bounce left him high and dry.
Jayawardene was made to look poorer than that. Murali first beat a late-cut with a topspinner from round the stumps, and then got a flighted offbreak to turn enough to beat the bat and get an lbw decision. At 64 for 4 after 11 overs, Punjab were looking at a freak innings from Yuvraj to keep them alive.
Yuvraj and Pathan played aggressive cameos but that didn’t help their team because of null support from the other batsman and the result is a low uncompetitive total of 136 in 20 overs.
Chennai got a blazing start as Punjab’s major wicket-taker was kept out of team after hi poor show in the last two matches. Hayden was not at his murderous best, but he was good enough he overtake Yusuf Pathan for maximum sixes in the IPL so far, and leave Chennai only 72 to get off the 68 deliveries. Punjab, the whipping boys of the tournament until then, used to letting matches slip after getting into winning positions, were about to turn one around from a losing position.
Take a bow for the determination of Punjab bowlers who fought back in an outstanding manner. Their newest player, Theron, a medium-pacer, provided the turning point. Parthiv Patel dropped one at his feet and called Suresh Raina for a single, but Theron ran faster than Raina and kicked the ball into the stumps, from a good-length area on the pitch. Umpire Daryl Harper, who had earlier called a clear six a four, joined in the fun, sending M Vijay off when the ball was clearly sliding down leg.
About five overs later, the six call was corrected, and Parthiv was seeing Chennai through with what seemed a sensible fifty. Then came the rush of the blood. Just after having hit a boundary, he jumped out to Piyush Chawla and was stumped, leaving Chennai 16 to get off 16. Morkel and Manpreet Gony, who had earlier bowled poorly to give 20 runs in two overs, started slogging as if the requirement was sixty and not sixteen.
Theron, bowling the 19th over, only had to be straight when Gony produced the worst bit of cricket on a night that had had its fair share already. Throwing his front leg out of the way, and his head up, he slogged and lost his middle stump. An injury had confined Justin Kemp to the dressing room and Ashwin, like a hare in the headlights, couldn’t do much with the last two deliveries of that over, setting up an exciting finale.
By: Ganta Rakesh