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Punjab overcome Lynn heroics to stay alive

Wisden India logo Wisden India 09-05-2017 Himanish Bhattacharjee

© Getty The Indian Premier League contest on Tuesday (May 9) night was about Kings XI Punjab and Kolkata Knight Riders, but the result - a 14-run win for Punjab - in Mohali had people glued to their television sets till as far as Hyderabad and Pune.

A loss here would have eliminated Punjab from the race to the playoffs, and confirmed Kokata, Mumbai Indians, Rising Pune Supergiants and Sunrisers Hyderabad as the top four teams for the tenth edition of the tournament. But Punjab, in Glenn Maxwell's own words, continued to hang on by the skin of their teeth.

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Maxwell, the Punjab captain who has been complaining about the lack of consistency in his side, lauded his boys after the heroic performance from his bowling unit that helped them remain afloat. Maxwell had top-scored with a 25-ball 44 to drag Punjab to 167 for 6, but no one would have guessed that would be enough to stop the juggernaut of a batting line-up his bowlers were up against. The fairly tricky strip laid out for the last match of the season at the PCA Stadium also acted like a catalyst, and Punjab clinched victory by restricting Kolkata to 153 for 6.

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Lynn and Sunil Narine, who had tormented Royal Challengers Bangalore with a blitzkrieg on Sunday, gave Kolkata another electric start with an opening stand of 39 off 22 balls. But Narine, after hitting two fours each off Sandeep Sharma and Mohit Sharma, was bowled for 18, much to the relief of the home crowd who had packed the stands through the evening. But with Kolkata’s depth in batting and Gautam Gambhir joining Lynn, Kolkata still had no reason to worry.

Punjab's fightback started around the 10th over of the chase, when the stump mic picked up Wriddhiman Saha asking Rahul Tewatia to slow the pace and utilise the turn, sending out a feeling that there could be something on the pitch that the leggie could utilise.

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He tossed one up to Gambhir two balls later, tempting him to smother it, but the Kolkata captain could only send the ball floating to Shaun Marsh at deep midwicket in the end. To further dent the visiting side, Tewatia used a googly to deceive Robin Uthappa, and send him back to the hut for a first-ball duck in the same over.

A slow period ensued, with Maxwell using Tewatia (2 for 18 in four overs) and Axar Patel to keep the scoring rate in check. For as long as Lynn and Manish Pandey were in the middle though, the Kolkata fans would have still been breathing easy, but when both fell off back-to-back deliveries in the 18th over, there was panic in the dressing room.

Lynn scored 84 off 52 balls, his knock studded with eight boundaries and three sixes, to be the standout batsman on either side. But the two untimely dismissals cost Kolkata, as it left too much for the new batsmen to do at the death with the run-rate mounting.

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Yusuf Pathan, Colin de Grandhomme and Chris Woakes had to attack every ball they faced, but the Punjab bowlers nabbed the important win thanks to a clinical show from the pacers at the death.

Earlier, Umesh Yadav, de Grandhomme and Narine had kept the Punjab openers quiet after Gambhir won the toss and chose to field. By the end of the fourth over, the scoreboard read 28 without loss, and the pressure finally got to Manan Vohra, who perished trying to poke a wide delivery on the legside to Uthappa behind the stumps.

The Kolkata bowlers used the momentum to snare Martin Guptill (12) and Shaun Marsh (11) too, and rattle Punjab, who were struggling despite decent batting conditions early on.

Wriddhiman Saha (38 off 33) and Maxwell then got together for a 71-run stand for the fourth wicket, but Kuldeep Yadav accounted for both in consecutive overs to keep Kolkata' target to a chaseable 168, In the end though, it proved too much for Gambhir's men.

Kolkata have one match remaining, against Mumbai Indians, to seal a spot in the knockouts, while Punjab need to beat Mumbai and Pune in their next two matches to still stay alive in the tournament. For now though, they can celebrate having lived to fight another day.

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