It wasn't a damp squib, with the heavens holding up after the heavy downpour of the previous two days. Still, with a place in the play-offs up for grabs, it wasn't a thrilling tie at all. Instead, the Kings XI Punjab crumbled under the pressure and handed Rising Pune Supergiant an effortless win, to set up the Qualifier against Mumbai Indians on Tuesday.
The comprehensive win resulted in the Pune team finishing second in the points tally, with 18 points from its 14 games, two points behind table-toppers Mumbai Indians.
When Steve Smith inserted the opposition in to bat at the Maharashtra Cricket Association stadium, it had more to do with keeping an eye on the partly overcast skies than depriving the power-packed Kings XI Punjab an opportunity to chase. However, it took the Indian pace duo of Jaydev Unadkat and Shardul Thakur the first six overs to seal the fate of the game.
Unadkat enticed Martin Guptill into a false cover-drive off the very first ball of the match. With the ball holding on to the wicket, Thakur then came into the act in the fourth over, his second. He first forced an error off Shaun Marsh's willow to see Smith completing a regulation catch at mid-off. In the next over, Unadkat, the fielder, came into play as a direct hit running in from mid-on saw the back of Eoin Morgan, who replaced Matt Henry in the team.
In the last Powerplay over, Thakur sealed the fate of the match with a double-strike. First, he saw Unadkat lunging to his left at short fine-leg to dismiss pinch-hitter Rahul Tewatia. Three balls hence, Glenn Maxwell flicked a half-volley straight to Ajinkya Rahane at deep square. At 32 for five in the first six overs, the Kings XI could tally only 73 runs before being bowled out in the 16th over. It was the lowest total of the team in the IPL history, way short of 88 it scored against Royal Challengers Bangalore in an away game in 2015.
Such was the accuracy of Thakur that Smith let him bowl all four overs on the trot. And the bowler not only gave him the vital breakthroughs but also bowled a whopping 16 dot balls.
A target of 74 was not going to stretch any batting line-up, least of all the in-form Pune team's. Rahul Tripathi continued his knack of going after the opposition pace bowlers in the Powerplay. Even after he perished to Axar Patel's left-arm spin, captain Smith and Rahane ensured Pune overhauled the target with no trouble at all, with the latter completing the formalities with a six over long-on off Maxwell in the 12th over.
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