It wasn’t to be for Punjab Kings on Sunday at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, as they were downed by Royal Challengers Bangalore in the 2021 VIVO Indian Premier League following a thrilling contest. Virat Kohli’s side qualified for the playoffs with a six run win over the Kings despite a lion hearted effort by Moises Henriques and Mayank Agarwal. 

Punjab Kings now will need to hope that other results go their way to qualify for the playoffs, while they need to win their final group game against Chennai Super Kings.  

Bowling first yet again, Punjab Kings started brightly, conceding just 11 runs in the first two overs. The third over though saw Devdutt Padikkal free his arms, as he welcomed Arshdeep Singh into the attack with a four and a six. 

The southpaw continued to attack, as he picked up two boundaries of Ravi Bishnoi’s first over as well, pushing the team score to 34/0 after four. Padikkal continued to take the game to the bowlers, as he targeted Arshdeep once again, hitting him straight down the ground for a maximum, and followed that with a flick off his legs to push the powerplay score to 55 for no wicket.

With the field spread out, RCB found scoring tough, as the next three overs yielded just 12 runs. Padikkal was also lucky to survive a caught behind appeal, where the ball showed a slight spike but the third umpire judged it not out. 

Nevertheless, the pressure was palpable and the introduction of Moises Henriques got Punjab Kings their first wicket, as fellow opener Virat Kohli was castled by the Australian seamer. That was followed by another wicket, as new man Dan Christian was out caught at backward point off his very first ball. 

Henriques added a third for the day shortly after, this time getting the well set Padikkal, to leave the batting team at 73/3 after 12 overs. New man Glenn Maxwell however started a counter charge, as he hit Harpreet Brar for two sixes of the leg side, spoiling what had been a great spell till then for the spinner. 

Maxwell continued to cause problems for Punjab, hitting Ravi Bishnoi for two huge sixes to get the team score past 100. His countryman Henriques though once again curbed the scoring rate, as he closed out with a stellar spell of 3/12. 

With four overs to go, RCB went all out at the death, as AB De Villiers joined in the act and targeted Shami’s penultimate over, getting a four and a six off it. The South African batter added a second of the evening when Arshdeep returned to the attack, hitting him straight over his head. De Villiers though had the walk back the very next ball, thanks to a splendid direct hit by Sarfaraz Khan. 

The final over saw Punjab finally get the back of Maxwell, who was out caught by Sarfaraz off Shami’s bowling. The Indian pacer added a couple more wickets in that over, knocking over Shahbaz Ahmed and George Garton as PBKS restricted the batting team to 164/7. 

Turning Point

Yuzvendra Chahal’s last over where he managed to dismiss Mayank Agarwal and Sarfaraz Khan proved to be the turning point of the match, derailing Punjab’s chase.

In response, KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal started cautiously as the first two overs went for just seven runs. Rahul though took his chance in the next over against Mohammad Siraj, dispatching his slower one for a huge six that landed on the roads of Sharjah. 

Agarwal too joined the act, hitting Garton for a six over backward square leg, as Punjab Kings raced away to 33/0 after four overs. Opposition skipper Kohli introduced spin to try and make inroads, but the move backfired as Shahbaz Ahmed was taken apart for a six and a four. 

Post the powerplay, Agarwal continued to play aggressively, as he picked up two boundaries off Daniel Christian’s first over, pushing the team score to 66 for no loss after eight overs. The 30-year-old latched onto Yuzvendra Chahal as well next up, hitting him for a four through extra covers and down the ground. 

Ahmed continued to face the wrath of the Punjab openers, as he was clubbed down the ground for a six by Agarwal. The left-arm spinner though provided the first breakthrough for his team in that over, as Rahul miscued one straight to the fielder at short third. That wicket slowed down the scoring rate, as the two overs went for just eight runs, forcing new Nicholas Pooran into a rash shot which cost him his wicket. 

A couple of quick wickets allowed Bangalore to get a foothold back in the game, as Punjab needed 63 off the final six overs. Aiden Markram and Agarwal though picked up a four apiece in the 15th over, getting the asking rate back within bounds. Chahal however acted like a spanner in the works of the chase, as he claimed the wickets of both Agarwal and new man Sarfaraz Khan to end with figures of 3/29. 

Punjab Kings now needed 43 off the last four, and Aiden Markram had to take his chances against Garton, but he only found the fielder at long on to augment the chasing side’s troubles. Shahrukh Khan however was unfazed, as he walloped Harshal Patel for a six on the leg side, leaving the equation at 27 off the final two overs. 

The Tamil Nadu batter got another four in the penultimate over, but Siraj delivered a composed remainder of the over to leave the chasing team needing 19 of the final over. Harshal Patel then got Shahrukh run out, putting RCB in the driver’s seat. 

Moises Henriques tried his best in the balls that remained, getting a six on the leg side but ultimately it proved to be a chase too steep as Royal Challengers Bangalore claimed a six run victory.

Punjab Kings play their final group game on Thursday against Chennai Super Kings.