Bangalore: Manish Pandey played an absolute blinder as Kolkata Knight Riders held their nerves to beat a spirited Kings XI Punjab by three wickets in an exhilarating summit clash to win the seventh edition of the Indian Premier League here on Sunday.
This was KKR`s second IPL trophy, the only team apart from Chennai Super Kings to achieve the feat. Needing 200 to win, Piyush Chawla hit the most important 13 runs of his life as he pulled Mitchell Johnson for a six off the last delivery of the penultimate over before slashing Parvinder Awana over point to run a victory lap as his delirious teammates joined him.
If Wriddhiman Saha`s 115 off 55 balls was a pure joy to watch, Pandey`s 94 off 50 balls was better than the best as he almost singlehandedly won the match for the Shah Rukh Khan co-owned franchise. Not to forget the four sixes hit by Yusuf Pathan (36) which also was important in the final context of the match.
It was probably the most keenly contested among the seven IPL finals as the fortunes fluctuated big time. While KXIP co-owner Preity Zinta found it difficult to supress her nervous energy, Shah Rukh sat on the VIP stand like monk. The only time there was a reaction was when Chawla hit the final shot as he took his daughter Suhana in his lap.
Robin Uthappa (5) finally had an off-day as his uppish drive was smartly snapped by Akshar Patel at cover off Mitchell Johnson`s delivery. Gambhir and Manish Pandey hit a flurry boundaries as KKR reached 59 for one at the end of the Powerplay. The KKR skipper looked in good nick with 23 off 16 balls before young leggie Karanveer Singh got him caught in the deep off David Miller as the left-hander tried to give the charge by dancing down the track.
Pandey in the meantime got the first six off the KKR innings hitting Karanveer over extra-cover.
Pandey continued playing a freeflowing innings in company of Yusuf Pathan who hit a couple of big sixes over long on and extra cover off Karanveer Singh. He followed with two huge sixes off Lakshmipathy Balaji. Pathan`s bravado ended when he tried to hit Karanveer for his fifth six only to be caught by Glenn Maxwell at the boundary line but KKR were very much in the game. However Pandey`s lusty blows had kept them in the game as they needed only 58 off the last six overs.
Shakib Al Hasan (12) was run-out as George Bailey was again inspirational on the field. Ryan ten Doeschate (2) was Karanveer`s third victim as David Miller took the catch at long-on boundary. Pandey, who was hitting sixes and boundaries at will finally got out when he tried to hit Karanveer against the turn to give a dolly to Bailey. But he had set up the match by then. Earlier, Saha played a career-defining innings as his magnificent century propelled kings XI Punjab to a competitive 199 for four after being put into bat.
Saha walked into the record books by being the first ever player to score a century in the IPL final as his unbeaten 115 off 55 balls had 10 fours and eight sixes. Saha and Vohra were swift yet brutal in their shot-making as they added a whopping 129 off 12 overs after Kings XI Punjab looked in a spot at 58 for two after the front 10. The back-10 got them as many as 141 runs thanks to the brilliant counter-attack by the Bengal stumper.
Vohra, a surprise retention at the start of the season scored 67 off 52 balls with six fours and two sixes. He was lucky on 62 as Robin Uthappa collected the ball in-front of the stumps while trying to stump him. But he was out trying to slog Chawla. The day belonged to Saha, who was in a mood to punish the spinners but played some equally good shot against the pacers including a hook shot off Morne Morkel.
Sunil Narine, who decided to give Test cricket a miss was esepcially clobbered for 46 runs in his four overs. Saha completed his century off 49 balls hitting Narine over long-on for a six which Suryakumar yadav nearly got his hand. Virender Sehwag`s (7) fans, who were expecting another swashbuckling innings were left disappointed as the veteran didn`t execute the pull-shot off a well-directed bouncer from Umesh. The resultant skier was taken by Gautam Gambhir standing at mid-off.
Then there was a battle of wits between the skipper which Gautam Gambhir won hands down. Rival skipper George Bailey promoted himself up the order which prompted Gambhir to bring in Narine. The first delivery was a big off-break as Bailey tried to play an ugly paddle shot shuffling across the line. He missed it and the leg-stump was uprooted.
Vohra on the otherhand slog-swept Piyush Chawla over depe mid-wicket for a six while Saha also got into the groove with some singles. KKR initially bowled a tight line and the slowness of the pitch helped them before Saha cut loose.