Murali Vijay and Manan Vohra produced an opening stand of 97 runs as Punjab chased down the 153-run target set by Pune with six wickets in hand. Earlier, Mohit Sharma and co restricted Rising Pune Supergiants to a paltry total after MS Dhoni won the toss and decided to bat first at Mohali.
Chasing the target of 153, Punjab went off to a flying start. Murali Vijay was the first to open up his arms as he went after Ankit Sharma in the second over, He danced down the track and hit him for two boundaries down the ground – one at long-on, and the other at long-off.
In the next over, he hit the first six of the match off Ishant Sharma on a pitch where the Pune batsmen struggled to get going as Punjab made it look easy in the middle.
Manan Vohra was not to be left behind as well, and he took Ishant out of the bowling attack by hitting him for three consecutive boundaries in the fifth over. At the end of the powerplay, Punjab were cruising to a win at 50/0.
Vohra soon overtook his senior partner as he rounded up a very poor day on the field for Thisara Perera by hitting him for three consecutive boundaries in the 11th over, before completing his half-century in the next.
Pune were in desperate need of a breakthrough and, eventually, Ankit Sharma ended the 97-run opening stand. The spinner trapped Vohra in front of the wicket in the 13th over, and gave Pune the opening they were looking for.
Shaun Marsh and Murali Vijay followed him into the pavilion soon as well with Murugan Ashwin picking up two wickets in the 15th over. From 97/0, Punjab went to 119/4 and all of a sudden the Mohali crowd had lost their voice.
It seemed like a very familiar story of Punjab being on a self-destructing mode. However, Maxwell came to the crease and calmed down the nerves with some powerful hitting against both the Ashwins. Eventually, the Australian guided Punjab over the line in the 19th over, with six wickets in hand.
Earlier, Pune came into this match on the back of a disappointing loss against Gujarat Lions, and MS Dhoni made three changes to his side against Kings XI Punjab. Mitchell Marsh, RP Singh, and Rajat Bhatia were replaced by Thisara Perera, Irfan Pathan, and Ankit Sharma.
Punjab, on the other hand, lost their opening two matches and were in desperate need of some inspiration. David Miller put his faith in fellow South African Kyle Abbott as he came into the side instead of Mitchell Johnson.
Dhoni won the toss and opted to bat first on a track which had a tinge of grass on the surface, but looked good for batting.
Pune received an early blow at the start of their innings as Sandeep Sharma dismissed Ajinkya Rahane with just 10 runs on the board. However, Kevin Pietersen and Faf du Plessis, who formed an 86-run partnership in their last game against Gujarat, stabilized the innings once again.
Trying to exploit Pietersen's well-highlighted weakness against left-arm spinners, Miller brought on Axar Patel as soon as the Englishman arrived at the crease. However, the move backfired as KP hit him for two consecutive boundaries – a delicate flick down the fine leg boundary, followed by a lovely flick through the midwicket – before du Plessis danced down the track to hit him straight down the ground.
However, just when the partnership was looking ominous Kyle Abbott broke the 55-run partnership. KP connected well with a flick shot, to a full-length ball on his pads, but Manan Vohra timed his jump impeccably at the midwicket to grab the ball over his head.
That wicket in the eighth over considerably slowed down Pune's run rate as the new man Thisara Perera failed to get going. Eventually, the Sri Lankan holed out at long-off while trying to hit Sandeep Sharma out of the park. At 76/3 in 10.1 overs, it seemed like Pune were once again losing their way at the middle of their innings, much like they did in their last game.
Punjab's spinners tied down the Pune batsmen and the boundaries dried out completely. Du Plessis kept grinding out the runs, though, and reached his half-century in the 15th over.
Steven Smith became more adventurous with his shot making towards the death as he dispatched Kyle Abbott for three boundaries in the 17th over. However, Mohit Sharma dismissed the Australian in the next over, to pick up his first wicket this season, with a beautifully disguised slower delivery from the back of his hand.
The former Chennai Super Kings pacer came back in the last over and picked up the wickets of du Plessis and MS Dhoni in consecutive deliveries. At the end, Pune crawled over the line to a disappointing total of 152 in their 20 overs.
Chahal or Axar? Who will take more wickets for India?
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