IPL 2016: Dhoni's heroics help Pune hand Punjab the wooden spoon in dead rubber

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Image Courtesy: IPT20 Official

IPL 2016: Dhoni's heroics help Pune hand Punjab the wooden spoon in dead rubber

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Debarshee Mitra

05/21/2016

Rising Pune Supergiants won the last game of a forgetful season, beating the Kings XI Punjab by 5 wickets in Vishakhapatnam in a thriller. Fifties from Murali Vijay and Gurkeerat Singh took Punjab to a strong total of 172, but Dhoni finished the season off in style scoring the winning runs.

Brief Scores: KXIP 172/7 in 20 overs (Vijay 59(41), Gurkeerat 51(30); Ashwin 4/34) lose to RSPG 173/5 in 20 overs (Dhoni 64(32), Khawaja 30(29); Gurkeerat 2/15)

With the IPL heading to it’s last round of round-robin matches and not one playoff team decided yet, the battle between the two teams who are guaranteed the bottom two places seemed like a filler. It was the battle of the wooden spoon as somebody casually pointed out on Twitter and there was nothing else to play for, but pride. MS Dhoni, who had always made the playoffs with the Chennai Super Kings, was hoping to avoid finishing bottom but the coin toss did not go his way.

Murali Vijay won the toss and elected to bat first on a wicket that has not produced a lot of runs, with a par score of 140. Punjab, who are the only side to win a match this season after winning the toss, welcomed back Rishi Dhawan for the outgoing KC Cariappa, while Pune fielded an unchanged eleven.

1. Murali Vijay and Gurkeerat put Punjab in command

Murali Vijay has slowly but steadily come into his own as the season has progressed, and he chose to bid farewell in a delightful fashion. Starting the innings watchfully, Vijay let Amla take the charge initially, only putting his foot on the gas in the fifth over.

The opener dispatched Chahar to the ropes with a four and a six and continued in the same vein throughout his 59-run knock, despite losing Amla and Saha in quick succession. It was Gurkeerat who stood firm and stitched a 58 run partnership with his captain at the other end. However, once Vijay was dismissed, Gurkeerat upped the ante. The 25-year-old first dumped Irfan Pathan in the crowd with two delightful sixes, before dishing similar treatment to Ashwin, as he brought up his 50.

2. Ashwin signs off in style

R. Ashwin chose the last game of Pune’s season to return back to life and snapped up four Punjab batsmen, restricting them to a below-180 score. He was Dhoni’s go-to man and delivered on the day by breaking partnerships at crucial junctures. First, the off-spinner gave Pune a much-needed first break, ending the 60-run opening stand between Amla and Vijay. Then he removed Murali Vijay to end the 58-run third wicket partnership. The former CSK man added the wickets of dangerous looking Gurkeerat and former KXIP captain, to end with season best figures of 4/34.

3. The match-turning over

Rising Pune Supergiants were going about their business well, despite losing opener Ajinkya Rahane and former Kings XI captain George Bailey. But with the required rate climbing above 11 after some tight overs by Abbott and Dhawan, Pune chose to go big.

Vijay handed the ball to Gurkeerat Singh and Pune sensed an opportunity. The first ball disappeared into the crowd, but Gurkeerat came back strong. The off spinner, gave the ball some extra flight and Saurabh Tiwary was unable to read it, looping a catch into the hands of Behardein. Three balls later, Usman Khawaja returned to the dugout as well. The Australian also went after a slow turner by Gurkeerat and found Miller in the deep to leave Pune four down, and in a spot of bother.

4. Dhoni does a Dhoni

That spot of bother lasted till the last over. Of course, Dhoni was still there and with 23 required off the last 6 balls, Murali Vijay made the folly of handing the ball to a spinner in Axar Patel. First Axar bowled a wide, and followed it up with a dot. Dhoni then hit him for a six to make it 16 off 4. A brilliant piece of fielding by Amla on the boundary saved a certain four in the next ball, and Dhoni refused to take a single. What followed was madness. The next ball was almost hit past the ropes, dropping half a meter short. With 12 runs required of the last two balls, Dhoni spanked Axar for 2 sixes to hand Pune an unlikely win and avoided the humiliation of finishing bottom.

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