Rohit steers Chargers to win
A brilliant attacking innings by Rohit Sharma took the Deccan Chargers to victory by five wickets with five balls to spare over the Punjab Kings XI in their Indian Premier League match at the Himachal Pradesh Stadium in Dharamsala on Friday.
The win lifts the Chargers from sixth to fourth in the standings and if they beat the Delhi Daredevils at Delhi on Sunday they will definitely get to defend their title in the semi-finals.
Rohit roared to 68 not out off 38 balls, a great finisher's knock to complete the job, ripping into left-arm seamer Irfan Pathan in the penultimate over as he lashed 16 runs to leave the scores level.
Chasing 175, the Chargers were well-placed on 82 for two at the halfway mark, but a frustrating collapse had seen them slip to 154 for five in the 18th over. Young Australian Mitchell Marsh (15) had just driven left-arm spinner Yuvraj Singh for a majestic six when he made a terrible mistake and tried to repeat the stroke, holing out to long-on.
With a new batsman at the crease and 19 runs needed off 12 balls, Punjab were back in the game, but an awful over by Pathan was completed by a four and a six to long-on by Rohit.
The Chargers were purring along well as Rohit and Tirumalasetti Suman (43 off 31) added 66 in 6.4 overs to make up for the early loss of Adam Gilchrist for nine.
The Australian tried a big lofted drive off Pathan but a minute deviation away from the bat caused the left-hander to slice a steepling catch to a composed Rusty Theron at extra cover.
Fellow opener Monish Mishra (20) was unfortunate to be adjudged leg-before to seamer Vikramjeet Malik as the ball would not have hit leg-stump or even another stump down leg.
Leg-spinner Piyush Chawla was the best of the Punjab bowlers with one for 26, while Theron completed his portion of overs with one for 32, bowling the 15th and 17th overs at a cost of just 14 runs. His dismissal of Andrew Symonds (4) was the highlight thereof and could have been a turning point for the Kings XI, but there was little joy for the home side thereafter.
The Chargers still have a negative nett run-rate of -0.363, but if they beat the Delhi Daredevils, who are third but also have 14 points, then they will obviously leapfrog them.
Sri Lankans Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakkara had earlier produced class batting to inspire the Punjab Kings XI to 174 for three.
The pair put on 86 for the second wicket in 10.3 overs as Sangakkara, firing on all cylinders, scored 52 off 37 balls. The left-hander enjoyed himself scoring square of the wicket, collecting nine fours and a six, so Sangakkara will be kicking himself for his dismissal, being caught as he tried to switch-hit leg-spinner Rahul Sharma over short-fine-leg.
That left Punjab on 87 for two in the 12th over, but Jayawardena kicked on, blazing 93 not out off just 62 balls. He scored his last 46 runs off just 15 deliveries, as he stroked eight fours and a six after reaching a run-a-ball half-century. Jayawardena batted with his usual elegance as he set about destroying the Chargers bowling.
The Kings XI, batting first after Chargers captain Gilchrist won the toss, lost Australian Shaun Marsh (0) in the first over, edging a superb delivery from Ryan Harris that jagged away into the gloves of Gilchrist.
Yuvraj (20) helped Jayawardena make merry at the end of the innings, 76 runs being scored in the last five overs.
Harris was the best of the bowlers, continuing the wonderful form he has shown this year as he took one for 27, conceding just nine runs in his first three overs. Leg-spinner Rahul was also impressive, taking one for 18 in three overs.
Deccan Chargers: AC Gilchrist (capt & wk), MD Mishra, TL Suman, A Symonds, RG Sharma, MR Marsh, B Sumanth, RP Singh, PP Ojha, RJ Harris, R Sharma
Kings XI Punjab: DPMD Jayawardene, SE Marsh, KC Sangakkara (capt & wk), Yuvraj Singh, K Goel, IK Pathan, J Theron, RS Sodhi, PP Chawla, SJ Srivastava, VS Malik