KL Rahul’s carnage helps Kings XI Punjab beat Chennai 

Opener KL Rahul’s blistering 71 off 36 balls, followed by Nicholas Pooran fireworks (36 off 22 balls) guided Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) to an impressive six-wicket win over defending champions Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the Indian Premier League (IPL) contest at the PCA I.S. Bindra Stadium, here on Sunday.

Rahul’s run rampage made most Chennai bowlers look helpless. The opener, whose stunning knock was decorated with seven fours and five massive sixes, bought up his half-century off just 19 balls. It’s now the third fastest half-century of the ongoing season.

Chasing the 171-run target, Rahul and his partner Chris Gayle (28 off 28) gave Punjab a flying start and the hosts were 33/0 in the first three overs, before the former clobbered Harbhajan Singh for 24 runs in the next over.

While Gayle, the self-proclaimed ‘boss of universe’, mostly remained silent, there was no stopping Rahul whose carnage of Chennai bowlers saw Punjab reaching 85/0 in just seven overs. At one stage it looked as if the hosts would cross the line in just 15 overs as their scorecard read 106/0 in 10 overs.

Harbhajan finally gave Chennai some respite with a much needed breakthrough, dismissing a dangerous Rahul in the 11th over. Rahul trying to go for the maximum sliced a delivery high in the air and Imran Tahir made no mistake at extra cover.

Just in the next ball, Harbhajan packed back Gayle to reduce the hosts to 108/2. The Caribbean had tried to clear the fence but ended up giving a catch to substitute Dhruv Shorey at long-on.

Just when the two new batsmen — Pooran and Mayank Agarwal — could add another 10 runs in Punjab’s scorecard, Harbhajan showed his class to send Agarwal to the hut. Agarwal could contribute just seven runs.

It seemed the Yellow Brigade would make a comeback in the game. But Pooran seemed in a hurry to finish things off as his lusty blows saw Punjab crossing the 150-run mark in 14.5 overs. Pooran couldn’t continue till the last as Ravindra Jadeja cut short his stay in the 17th over. However, it was too late for the visitors with Punjab comfortably placed at 163/4.

With just 8 more runs needed, Mandeep Singh (11 not out off 9) and Sam Curran (6 off 7) easily drove Punjab home with 12 balls to spare.

For Chennai, Harbhajan was the pick of bowlers as he scalped three wickets, but leaked 57 runs from his four overs. Jadeja bagged one for 16 runs.

Earlier, opener Faf du Plessis’s 96 off 55 balls and Suresh Raina’s 53 off 38 balls helped Chennai post 170/5 in the allotted 20 overs.

The duo were involved in a crucial 120-run second wicket partnership, building the platform for a fighting total as their lower middle-order failed to contribute.

While du Plessis’ knock was laced with 10 boundaries and four sixes, Raina’s innings contained five fours and two hits into the stands.

Put to bat, openers Shane Watson (7 off 11) and du Plessis started on a good note, adding 30 runs in the initial four overs. But in the next over Curran drew the first blood for Punjab as he castled Watson.

Raina and du Plessis then anchored the innings, helping Chennai reach the 50-run mark in 7.1 overs before they further developed the partnership to take their side to 79/1 at the half way stage.

They continued to play sensibly and kept the scorers busy as Chennai touched the three-digit mark in 12.5 overs. Meanwhile, du Plessis also notched up his second half-century of the season off 37 balls.

Just when it seemed that they would comfortably steer Chennai to an imposing total, Raina mistimed a slower delivery by Curran to give an easy catch to Mohammed Shami at short fine-leg.

Curran struck again in the 19th over to send back a well-settled du Plessis, who fell short of his century by just four runs with Chennai’s scorecard reading 163/3.

Shami then dismissed Kedar Jadhav (0) and Ambati Rayudu (1) in the final over as Chennai skipper M.S. Dhoni (10) and Dwayne Bravo (1) remained unbeaten at the end of 20 overs.

Brief scores: Kings XI Punjab 173/4 in 18 overs (KL Rahul 71, Nicholas Pooran 36; Harbhajan Singh 3/57) beat Chennai Super Kings: 170/5 in 20 overs (Faf du Plessis 96, Suresh Raina 53; Sam Curran 3/35) by 6 wickets.