A scintillating, unbeaten 93 by Mahela Jayawardene was overpowered by an equally brilliant 68 not out by Rohit Sharma as the Deccan Chargers chased down a tough target of 175 set by the Kings XI Punjab at the scenic setting in Dharmasala. Rohit and T Suman joined forces after their team got off to a rapid start, at 54 for 2 in seventh over.
And, by the time, Piyush Chawla managed to have Suman caught behind for 43 (from 31 balls), the score had progressed to 120 in the 14th over. There were some anxious moments for Deccan after Suman’s dismissal. But, Rohit batted with great maturity to see his side through.
The beauty of the partnership between Suman and Rohit was that they attacked from the word go and never let the bowlers get on top of them. Both batted with supreme confidence, which came courtesy their successes in the recent games. They were especially severe on the seamers, lofting them with ease.
Neither among Vikramjeet Malik, Irfan Pathan or Shalabh Srivastava could make any kind of an impression. Pathan did strike early, getting the big scalp of the struggling opposition skipper Adam Gilchrist. Unfortunately for Punjab, he was the man to let Deccan off the hook when things got tight towards the end. Rohit took a liking to him, driving him with ease on the off-side and plucking twos and also lofting him for a magnificent six to level the score.
Suman, on the other hand, struck to his tried and tested formula of his inside out strokes and succeeded yet again. In all, he hit three fours and three sixes, supporting Deccan perfectly as they went about approaching the target in an aggressive manner. Kumar Sangakkara tried to distract the duo by constantly chopping and changing the bowling. But, it did not work as both the batsmen looked well-settled at the crease.
Eventually, it needed one from Chawla that turned away to end Suman’s resistance. Soon, Juan Theron cleaned up Andrew Symonds for 4 with one that kept low. But, Sharma ensured that there were no more hiccups. A couple of lusty blows by 18-year-old Mitchell Marsh helped as they registered a five-wicket win and kept their hopes of progressing to the semis very much alive.
Sharma’s genius undid some splendid work by Jayawardene earlier in the day. The former Sri Lankan skipper was in his elements once again after Gilchrist won the toss and inserted the opposition in. Punjab got off to the worst possible start as Shaun Marsh edged a superb outswinger from Ryan Harris first ball. However, that only brought a fired up Sangakkara to the crease.
Taking on RP Singh and Marsh, Sangakkara got Punjab into a position of strength. He did not slog but struck to his natural game, timing the ball to perfection. Thanks to his blistering half-century, Punjab raced to 87 in the 12th over, before indiscretion got the better of him, a predetermined reverse sweep was lapped up by Pragyan Ojha.
Following the skipper’s dismissal, Jayawardene’s bat fell silent and Yuvraj Singh’s lack of form did not help either. But, once Jayawardene broke the shackles dispatching Marsh to the fence, there was no looking back. He punched five consecutive fours off RP Singh to lift Punjab to 174 for 3. At the break, it seemed a competitive score. And, but for Rohit’s blaze, it could have been a match-winning one.
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