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Another loss for sloppy Punjab

Posted by James On 1:17 PM 0 comments

Royal Challengers Bangalore 184 for 4 (Pietersen 66*, Kohli 42) beat Kings XI Punjab 180 for 5 (Sangakkara 45, Bopara 42*, Yuvraj 36) by six wickets

An amateurish fielding display from Kings XI Punjab and one over of carnage from Robin Uthappa tipped the match Royal Challengers Bangalore's way after ten overs of sensible batting from Kevin Pietersen and Virat Kohli had kept the game evenly poised. Yet again, only one department clicked for Punjab - it was their batting today - and Brett Lee's meltdown in the 17th over helped Bangalore snap their two-game losing streak.

Punjab were in with a chance till the final four overs, when Bangalore needed 48 more runs. Lee, though, disappeared for 25 runs in the next over: Uthappa effortlessly sent the first ball, a full toss, over long-on for six; a length ball followed which was crashed into the sightscreen after one bounce; two deliveries later Uthappa swung a short delivery over midwicket for six; Lee then gifted five wides with a horror ball way down the leg side. After the over it was 23 needed off 18, and Punjab were out of the match.

Uthappa's fireworks came after Pietersen and Kohli stitched together 76 brisk runs without too many big hits. The left-arm spinning pair of Yuvraj Singh and Bipul Sharma kept things tight after the openers departed, but there was little panic from the Bangalore pair.

They were helped by some of the worst fielding in the tournament: Sreesanth let go of an absolute dolly at long-on off Kohli in the 14th over, Ravi Bopara let one slip through for four more two deliveries later, and towards the end Sangakkara not only grassed a chance at extra cover, he even managed to kick the ball over the ropes after the miss.

Punjab were actually looking in control during the early part of the Bangalore innings. Jacques Kallis looked uncomfortable in his short stay before nicking to the keeper. His opening partner, Manish Pandey, was in better touch, swiping a few trademark boundaries down the ground. However, yet again he couldn't convert to a big score, falling for his fifth score between 29 and 42 in the tournament. Then Bipul's economic bowling in the middle overs sent the asking-rate spiraling, but Uthappa's burst ensured that for the second time in the tournament Bangalore chased down a stiff score against Punjab.

Punjab's batting had worked well earlier in the day, with a clutch of cameos boosting them to a fighting total. The under-fire pair of Sangakkara and Yuvraj delivered, but both were dismissed just as they looked to explode. Bopara, pushed down to No. 4, chipped in with a well-paced knock to ensure the momentum wasn't lost, and 76 runs were plundered in the final six overs.

Bangalore's bowlers were spot-on with the new ball after a couple of matches of being ragged. Sangakkara, though, invigorated the innings with a couple of classy square drives and a whip past square leg for four. Dale Steyn, the spearhead, was brought in but he too leaked boundaries, and a string of fours from opener Manvinder Bisla pushed Punjab to 26 for 1 after five overs. The pair kept averaging a boundary an over, and had added 63 runs without much trouble when Bisla fell attempting a scoop off Anil Kumble, being done in by a straight one.

Still, Sangakkara was looking the most fluent he has all tournament, and continued to find the gaps. A controlled, superbly timed lofted off-drive of Pietersen's first ball and a flat-batted bash down the ground kept the runs coming.

Till then, Steyn had had a poor game, being expensive in his first over and a misfield at the boundary his only contributions. However, he made a crucial intervention, removing the ominous Sangakkara in the first ball when he returned for the 12th over.

That brought in the man in the eye of the controversy that engulfed the build-up to this game - Yuvraj. Steyn rattled him with a bunch of short balls, including a 151kmh bouncer that struck Yuvraj on the back shoulder.

Yuvraj, though, showed glimpses of his destructive best, swatting Jacques Kallis into the crowd behind midwicket and then picking a Kumble googly early and clubbing it beyond long-on for six. With Bopara offering solid support, and Bangalore presenting a bunch of full tosses, Yuvraj powered Punjab ahead but just when the fans were getting ready for a feast of hitting from Yuvraj, he miscued a legstump ball to midwicket in the 18th over.

That didn't prove too be too much of a hindrance, as Bopara picked off the loose deliveries served up, and Irfan slapped a four and a six in the final over to set Bangalore a challenging target. Had they not set such a sorry example in the field towards the final leg of the chase, the game could well have gone Punjab's way.

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