Cometh the hour, cometh the man

Irfan Pathan, the Man of the Match, and Mahela Jayawardene celebrate a strike.-AKHILESH KUMAR

Irfan Pathan, rightly adjudged the Man of the Match, said he was concentrating on taking wickets upfront and doing everything to help the team win. Rakesh Rao reports.

Kings XI Punjab seems to be finding a new hero every time it gets into trouble. After Kumar Sangakkara did the trick against Mumbai, Simon Katich downed Delhi and Shaun Marsh announced his arrival against Hyderabad, it was the turn of Irfan Pathan to come good when it really mattered against Kolkata Knight Riders.

As it turned out, Punjab’s fourth straight victory resulted in Kolkata’s fourth successive loss. Interestingly, the two teams have so far shared contrasting fortunes. Punjab lost the first two matches before picking itself up. Kolkata won its first two games and is now struggling to find its foothold on a slippery slope.

Irfan tilted the scales in Punjab’s favour with a brilliant all-round effort. After Punjab chose to bat and slipped from 82 for one to 106 for five, Irfan proved an able ally to Kumar Sangakkara. The Sri Lankan wicket-keeper had returned to the action after a side-strain forced him to leave the field earlier in the innings. The duo batted sensibly to raise 49 runs. Irfan scored an unbeaten 24 off 26 deliveries while the last-over flourish of Piyush Chawla helped Punjab set up a challenging target. Facing speedster Ishant Sharma, Chawla smashed 4, 4, 2, 4, 6 off the last five deliveries to raise Punjab’s hopes of adding to the woes of Kolkata.

Irfan was not yet done with Kolkata. He took a brilliantly judged catch at deep third man to end Ganguly’s innings and then accounted for opener Mohammad Hafeez and Brad Hodge in quick succession. With Sreesanth adding the scalp of Debabrata Das, Kolkata found itself down in the dumps at 29 for four. Once Laxmi Ratan Shukla was fifth out at 50, it looked like a lost cause for Kolkata.

Thereafter, David Hussey and Prashanta Saha hit half centuries to keep alive Kolkata’s hopes but sustained hitting finally took its toll. The departure of Hussey was a major setback for the visiting team. Punjab went on to tighten the screws with Irfan bowling a tight final over.

Ganguly tried to draw positives from this narrow loss, while Punjab coach Tom Moody looked ahead to build on the winning momentum. Irfan, rightly adjudged the Man of the Match, also became the highest wicket-taker in the competition with 11 wickets, one better than Zaheer Khan.

But the all-rounder did not read much into it and said he was concentrating on taking wickets upfront and doing everything to help the team win.

THE SCORES

Kings XI, Punjab v Kolkata Knight Riders, PCA Ground, Mohali, May 10, 2008.

Result: Kings XI, Punjab won by nine runs.

Kings XI Punjab 178 for six in 20 overs (S. Marsh 40, K. Sangakkara 28, I. Pathan 24 n.o., P. Chawla 21 n.o., U. Gul 2-27) beat Kolkata Knight Riders 169 for six in 20 overs (D. Hussey 71, Prashanta Saha 59 n.o., S. Sreesanth 2-25, Irfan Pathan 2-18).