Rajkot: Kings XI Punjab put up a strong all-round show to end their four-match losing streak with a 26-run victory over Gujarat Lions in an Indian Premier League (IPL) contest here on Sunday.
Opening batsman Hashim Amla played a crucial knock of 65 as Punjab posted a challenging total of 188/7 in 20 overs. In reply, Gujarat could muster only 162/7, driven largely by Dinesh Karthik (58 not out) as the eighth-placed team succumbed to its fifth loss in seven matches.
Medium pacer Sandeep Sharma (2/40) and the spin pair of K.C. Cariappa (2/24) and Axar Patel (2/36) impressed for the visitors, who now have six points and are fourth on the points table.
Punjab, who were coming into the match with four consecutive defeats, had to be thankful to Amla (65; 40b; 9x4, 2x6), who shared a 70-run stand for the second wicket with Shaun Marsh (30 off 24 balls) at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium here.
The partnership came after Manan Vohra (2) edged a Nathu Singh delivery to wicket-keeper Dinesh Karthik in the second over. Both Amla and Marsh played aggressive cricket to put the pressure on the Gujarat Lions.
While Amla utilised his strong off-side stroke-making to good effect, Marsh decided to take more risk, hitting over the infield. By the end of the Powerplay overs, they reached 50/1, with Amla leading the charge.
The partnership was broken in the 10th over when a slow delivery from medium pacer Andrew Tye saw Marsh mistime and giving an easy catch to Suresh Raina at midwicket, with Punjab at 81/2 in 9.2 overs.
The same over saw Amla complete his fifty in 30 deliveries and the stage was set for Punjab's power hitters. Amla was joined by Glenn Maxwell and the pair went on the offensive from the word go.
Maxwell took only 18 deliveries to score 31 before being dismissed lbw against left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja in the 14th over. Amla fell an over before him, driving one straight back at leg-spinner Shubham agarwal.
However, the fireworks from Punjab didn't stop as Axar Patel batted with disdain, playing a quickfire 34 off 17 deliveries, of which three went for fours and two were deposited in the stands against Dwayne Smith as Punjab ended at 188/7.
Punjab then got about their job of defending the total very strongly, removing openers Brendon McCullum (6) and Aaron Finch (13) with the batsmen falling to medium pacers Sandeep Sharma and Mohit Sharma respectively.
Suresh Raina (32) and Karthik showed some resilience but the former was caught at deep midwicket by Maxwell off a delivery from Axar Patel, as the hosts lost were reduced to 70/3 in nine overs.
Later, leg-spinner Cariappa stole the show with two quick wickets. First, he caught Ravindra Jadeja (9) of his own bowling in the final ball of the 12th over and then getting rid of Akshdeep Nath (0) in the first ball of the 14th over. In the 13th over, Dwayne Smith (4) had given Axar his second wicket and following Akshdeep's wicket, Gujarat were looking down the barrel at 102/6, with 87 required of 6.5 overs.
However, Karthik, who had dragged Gujarat till then with occasional fours and ones and twos, got a good partner in Andrew Tye to give some hopes to the hosts.
Tye played a useful cameo of 22 from 12 deliveries as Sandeep bowled him to further dent the chase of Gujarat, who were at 137/7 in 16.4 overs. Punjab then had no trouble in getting a 26-run victory.