Three balls into his final over on Friday,Amit Mishras figures read 3.3-0-28-0. Azhar Mahmood had smashed the first and third balls of this over for four. Kings XI Punjab were 114 for five in 17.3 overs.
Mahmood,looking to launch the next ball down the ground,holed out at long on. Fifth ball of Mishras over,Gurkeerat Singh pushed to deep midwicket,where Ishant Sharma barely had to move to collect the ball. A second run was impossible,but Manpreet Singh Gony,halfway down the pitch for a second,didnt seem to think so. Ishant threw to the keeper. Gony didnt even bother trying to recover his crease.
Last ball of the 18th over,Manan Vohra slogged straight into Ishants hands. In his previous match,Mishra had taken his third IPL hat-trick. Now,Sunrisers Hyderabad had achieved a team hat-trick in his over.
First ball of the next over,it became four wickets in four balls,Dale Steyn demolishing Gurkeerats stumps as he tried to make room. Punjab were now 117 for nine. They managed to complete their 20 overs,but their last pair only took six runs from the last 11 balls of their innings. Hyderabad only needed 124.
This wasnt a particularly daunting target,but Hyderabads highest score in their last three matches was only 132. They had wobbled while achieving a 115-run target against Delhi and had won a low-scoring game against Pune after scoring 119. This,therefore,wouldnt be easy.
At one point,in fact,things got rather uneasy. A mild sense of unease first reared its head when Hanuma Viharis polished 39-ball 46 came to an end,via an uppish drive off a cleverly tossed-up Piyush Chawla leg break. It grew steadily over the next 20 balls,which only yielded 17 runs. And when Manpreet Gony got the first ball of the 16th over to keep low and bowl Cameron White,it looked like Punjab were right back in it. Hyderabad now needed 37 from 30 balls.
With 27 needed off 24,Mahmood got one to nip back at Biplab Samantray. It seemed to hit his pad a touch outside off stump,but the umpire gave him out LBW. Only two came off that over. And Hyderabad managed only seven off the next one,bowled by Gony.
With 12 balls left of their chase,Hyderabad needed 18. At no point since the end of the 10th over had their score been ahead of Punjabs at the same point.
But Punjabs collapse,and the fact that they only managed six runs from their last two overs,would now prove decisive. First ball of the 19th over,Thisara Perera swatted Mahmood down the ground for six. A wide and two singles brought the equation down to nine from eight. Perera needed only two balls. Mahmood landed both on a perfect length for that big,unfettered,left-handed swing,and Perera connected perfectly both times to bring up his eighth and ninth sixes of the season.
Till that fateful final over from Mishra,Punjab might have entertained thoughts of setting Hyderabad a 140-plus target. Their innings had gotten off to a slow start,and leg spinner Karan Sharma had dismissed Adam Gilchrist and Paul Valthaty in the same over,both caught in the deep against balls that simply didnt come on as expected.
With the score 48 for three after nine overs,Piyush Chawla walked in. On air,the commentators surmised that Chawla had been promoted since he was left-handed and a leg spinner himself,and therefore,ideally equipped to deal with Hyderabads wrist-spinning duo of Karan and Amit Mishra.
left,almost right Tenuous logic,but the move paid almost immediate dividend. First ball he faced from Karan,Chawla slog-swept over the midwicket boundary. Next ball,he skipped down the track,always looking to get his front foot slightly leg-side of the ball,and launched him straight over his head for another six. In the next over,he lofted Mishra down the ground for four.
When Chawla was run out at the start of Punjabs 15th over for a 15-ball 23,Punjab were 88 for four. They had wickets in hand,and their innings had just received a healthy shot of momentum. All they needed was a finish.