IPL 9 is being seen as the most closely fought IPL till now as the final 3 matches remain in the group stage and 6 teams are still fighting it out for the slot in top 4. The other two teams which are already out of it were playing the match today. The match would not yield a qualification to any of them but it is a cricket match after all and there is the zeal to win, no matter who plays who.
Both the teams wanted to win in order to not finish at the bottom of the points table.
Kings XI Punjab won the toss and elected to bat first. Murli Vijay continued his good run of form with another half century and formed useful partnerships with Hashim Amla for the opening wicket and then Gurkeerat Mann for the 3rd wicket for 60 and 58 runs respectively. There was not much on offer from the other batsmen but a good platform helped Kings raise a challenging total of 172 for 7 in their 20 overs. Vijay top scored with 59 runs off 41 balls with Gurkeerat scoring a valuable 51 from just 30 deliveries. Hashim Amla gave a good start to innings with 30 runs off 27 balls. KXIP had a good total on the board and with a consistently performing seam bowling attack, they were in with a good chance.
The Rising Pune Supergiants started decently but lost their way in the middle overs as they slumped to 86 for 5 in the 14th over.
Khawaja had scored a patient 30 but no other batsmen added much value. MS Dhoni and Thisara Perera came together at the crease when their team needed another 87 runs from just 38 balls. With power hitter such as these two, no runrate is out of reach but still the asking rate was very high and difficult to get. 9 out 10 times the side chasing such a target would end up losing.
The script read pretty much the same today to but a late twist changed the game on its head. Dhoni and Perera were going well with 29 required off the last 2 overs. Mohit Sharma bowling the 19th over gave away just 6 runs and took the wicket of perera to take the proceeding further away from Pune. But as they say, cometh the hour, cometh the man – Dhoni was there at the crease to do the impossible.
23 required off 6 balls and Axar Patel bowling the last over, Dhoni refused a single off the first ball sending the Pune dugout in a dizzy.
With 23 required off 5, Patel bowled a wide and then was hammered for a six and a boundary and another dot ball. The equation came down to 12 off the last 2 deliveries and then there was Dhoni and the power of Dhoni as muscled away the last 2 deliveries over mid wicket to seal an improbable win for his team to savor some pride and finish on a high in their last match of the year.
Both the teams have had a disappointing IPL. Big players did not perform for both sides as they languished at the bottom of the table from the very initital phase of the tournament and ended it there as well. RPS was unlucky to lose all their star international players to injuries mid way into the tournament while Punjab was let down by their internationals Maxwell, Miller and Mitchell Johnson. Punjab though can be satisfied with the bowling efforts from their young bowlers.