The equation was simple enough for Kings XI Punjab even before a ball of their final group match was bowled. Beat bottom-placed Chennai Super Kings and earn a chance to qualify for the IPL play-offs; or lose and go home. As KXIP learned the hard way on Sunday, simple is not the same as easy.
KL Rahul’s men lost by nine wickets, thanks to a combined CSK effort between Ruturaj Gaikwad and three South Africans – Lungi Ngidi, Imran Tahir and Faf du Plessis. This gave late solace to the only team that was out of the play-off race before this match started, as MS Dhoni’s side finished the tournament on the same points as the now-relegated Punjab, 12 apiece. (IPL 2020 Full Coverage)
Punjab’s problems began when they were stuck in to bat on a ground that had witnessed the chasing team win seven out of the last nine matches. Openers Rahul and Mayank Agarwal looked to buck that trend with a terrific start of 44 runs from the first five overs of the day. But CSK’s Ngidi – the star of CSK’s bowling innings – hadn’t yet had his say.
In the last powerplay over and with only his second ball, Ngidi induced a nick on to the stumps from Agarwal. Then, in his following over, the South African pacer did Rahul in with a slower yorker. And that, as they say, was that. Ngidi’s compatriot Imran Tahir, along with Shardul Thakur, stifled Punjab for runs in the middle overs, to the point where CSK didn’t concede a single boundary between overs 6 and 13. In the space of those seven overs, KXIP managed just 24 runs for the loss of three wickets.
If not for No.6 bat Deepak Hooda — whose last three innings for KXIP were 1, DNB and 0 — Rahul’s side would’ve been defending something in the range of 120-130 runs. Hooda struck a late fifty (62 in 30 balls) with four lashes over the ropes, and now Punjab had 153 to protect; still difficult but the proposition just as simple as it was in the beginning. Prevail or perish. They perished.
Mohammed Shami, one of the leading lights of this IPL, set the tone for Punjab with five consecutive dot balls at Gaikwad in his opening over. But with the ball that should have sealed the maiden, Shami strayed down the leg side and gifted CSK five extras. Such was KXIP’s day.
CSK openers du Plessis and Gaikwad had cobbled together 57 runs by the end of the powerplay overs and their stand was only broken on 82 runs, just short of the halfway mark. In an attempt to scoop his way to a fifty, du Plessis was caught behind for 48 with his side still needing 70 from the last ten overs. But Gaikwad, CSK’s man of the week, was still around.
Gaikwad and Ambati Rayudu played the waiting game initially, happy to nibble away at the target in ones and twos. But in Ravi Bishnoi’s final over, the 16th, Gaikwad twice danced down the wicket and clubbed the leggie for two lofted boundaries over the cover region. The second of those brought up Gaikwad’s third fifty in a row, a shot that also tied the runs required, 24, with the balls remaining.
The winning runs were scored before the final Punjab over could be bowled, putting Rahul’s side out of their season’s misery without a single win in Abu Dhabi. KXIP’s captain later summed up his campaign with a shrug and a poignant thought: “Hopefully (we’ll) try and forget this year.”