DHARAMSALA: Rohit Sharma’s breezy unbeaten 68 overshadowed Mahela Jayawardene’s sparkling knock as defending champions Deccan Chargers pipped Kings XI Punjab by five wickets to keep alive their semifinal hopes in the Indian Premier League on Friday.
Chasing a 175-run victory target, the Chargers fumbled and faltered but Rohit stayed till the end to guide the side to 178 for five in 19.1 overs.
Rohit’s eighth IPL fifty was the cornerstone of Deccan Chargers’ win as the defending champions recorded their seventh victory in 13 matches to jump to the fourth place in the points table.
Rohit’s unbeaten 38-ball knock included six fours and three sixes.
Earlier, Mahela Jayawardene (93 not out) starred in two identical 86-run stands with skipper Kumar Sangakkara (52 of 37 balls) and Yuvraj Singh (20) to power Kings XI Punjab to 174 for three.
Deccan began the tricky chase on an unconvincing note, losing skipper Adam Gilchrist (9) in the second over sent down by Irfan Pathan when Juan Theron took a skier at extra cover.
T Suman (43 of 31 balls) then added 41 runs for the second wicket with Monish Mishra (20) and another 66 with Rohit to steady the innings as Deccan put their chase back on track.
Aware of the task at hand, Rohit began rather gingerly, playing balls according to merit. Suman, on the other hand, kept clearing the ropes, hitting Theron, Irfan Pathan and Yuvraj Singh for massive sixes before Piyush Chawla got the better of him in the 14th over.
Next man in Andrew Symonds (4) didn’t last longer but Rohit grew strong in confidence. The right-hander hit Shalabh Srivastava for what was the 500th six of the IPL, which was preceded by a boundary.
Srivastava was hit over the ropes in his next over as well as Rohit looked in imperious form and he stayed put till the last ball to see them home.
Earlier put into bat, the Punjab side lost opener Shaun Marsh in the first over but the 86-run stand between Sangakkara and Jayawardene shored up the innings.
Jayawardene cashed in on the live he got when batting on 21 and provided the late charge with an unbeaten 62-ball knock studded with 13 fours and two sixes.
Deccan Chargers captain Adam Gilchrist played safe on an unpredictable pitch, asking Kings XI Punjab to bat first and as if to justify the decision, Ryan Harris struck in the very first over.
Shaun Marsh could only manage a faint edge that nestled into Gilchrist’s gloves behind the stumps as the Australian left-hander departed with a golden duck against his name.
Deccan didn’t get another chance to celebrate in the next 10 overs with the Sri Lankan duo of Sangakkara and Jayawardene stitching together an 86-run stand that propped up the Punjab side.
Jayawardene could not have prospered beyond 21 but Rahul Sharma gave him a life when he dropped the right-hander off Pragyan Ojha’s bowling.
Shaun Marsh’s brother in the rival camp Mitchell was pressed into service in the fourth over and Sangakkara greeted him with back-to-back boundaries.
Andrew Symonds was hit over backward square leg for a six and in the next over Sangakkara struck Ojha for two fours on the trot to cruise to a half-century but fell in the next over, courtesy a suicidal reverse sweep that went terribly wrong.
Next man in Yuvraj Singh’s (20) struggle was evident as the left-hander, going through a prolonged bad patch, took seven balls to get off the mark.
In contrast, Jayawardene was on song, hitting Rohit Sharma for a six and following it with a boundary.
He inflicted more damage in the next over, hitting the hapless RP Singh for five successive fours, the first of which brought up his fifty.
The former Sri Lanka captain was not content yet. He hit Harris for back-to-back fours in the penultimate over and collected a four and six of the final over bowled by RP Singh to swell the tally.
Jayawardene’s aggression could be assessed from the fact that the last five overs yielded 76 runs, costing the Punjab side just one wicket.(PTI)