The Kings XI Punjab again showed that they have the potential to win the Indian Premier League as they posted a mammoth 221-3 before restricting the Rajasthan Royals to 180 for seven in the final group game in Jaipur, writes Graham Wilson
Once again, Shaun Marsh showed why he is in the One Day International squad for Australia as he dominated the Rajasthan Royals bowling attack that was without captain Shane Warne.
Marsh played every shot in the book as he showed both supreme hitting power and delicate soft hands to swiftly move to 50 off just 29 balls. He hit some classic cover drives that showed pure timing, along with some bullying sweeps that gave the crowd a chance to register a catch.
He was supported well by James Hopes who did well to keep his head and give Marsh the single as he played second fiddle to this young talented Western Australia batsman.
At the halfway stage of the innings, the Kings XI Punjab had raced to 88-0, and three balls later, the 100 was up as Hopes hit three consecutive fours.
Hopes registered his third fifty in Twenty20 cricket as he brought his 50 up off 30 balls, just one more ball than Marsh as he kicked on when the spinners were brought on by make-shift captain Shane Watson.
The two Australians hardly put a foot wrong during their opening partnership of 133 as they continued their rich form as they moved into the semi-final stages.
Marsh’s innings took him past Indian left hander Gautam Gambhir, as he continued to raise his average that is approaching 80. This was also his highest Twenty20 score in his whole career and moved into second place in the DLF maximum six hitting position, just behind Sanath Jayasuriya.
Finally the breakthrough came as Hopes perished for a brilliant 51 as he was caught on the boundary playing a slog sweep of the bowling of Yusuf Pathan, who had previously been hit for two ferocious fours and a six by Marsh in the same over.
The score was now on 133-1 with Yuvraj Singh coming to the crease and looking to play himself into some form with the remaining overs.
Approaching a superb century, Marsh smashed a huge six straight back down the ground to move onto 97. The next ball he hit a full toss to deep cover to move onto 99, with the crowd all urging him to hit his century.
A push down the ground saw an elated Marsh reach his three figures and received a hug from his captain Yuvraj Singh, who will have been delighted with the signing of Shaun Marsh, and probably wished that they signed him from the start.
Yuvraj Singh then joined the party and smashed the next ball over square leg for six, as the Kings XI Punjab were cruising on 168-1.
An over later, he hit Trivedi for a huge 106 metre six into the crowd to only replicate it next ball as the young bowlers nerves got to him as he was bowling to two sensational batsman. Shades of Durban appeared as Yuvraj smashed his third consecutive six as he left the poor Trivedi clueless as to where to bowl.
It seemed to be a competition between Yuvraj and Marsh as to who could hit the biggest six as Marsh held back in his crease to smash Munaf Patel back over his head to bring up the 200 for the Kings XI.
This was just incredible stuff as Yuvraj slapped his fourth ball in a row for yet another six as he moved onto 42 off just 13 balls.
Marsh fell in the last over as he hit 116 from 69 balls as he skied a full delivery off Shane Watson to a grateful Younus Khan. He left to a standing ovation and had played one of the innings of the tournaments.
Chasing his fifty, Yuvraj Singh was run out for a scintillating 49 off just 16 balls to leave his side in a strong position to win the match as they have set the Rajasthan Royals a very difficult target.
Needing a good start to the run chase, the Royals struggled with Mohammad Kaif, a surprise choice to open alongside the impressive Niraj Patel, struggling to get going before being bowled by Shanthakumaran Sreesanth for one.
Younus Khan, in the side for the first time, made no compelling case for further inclusion when he too was bowled, trying to heave Irfan Pathan to leg. Then came the first real partnership of the innings with Shane Watson (22) combining with Niraj Patel, who memorably took Sreesanth for four fours in one over.
The pair brought up the fifty but it had taken 49 balls; in such a high-scoring game, that was an eternity and Patel was next out for a superb 57 from just 39 balls when he was bowled by Piyush Chawla.
Watson's departure followed soon after before an astonishing display of hitting from Yusuf Pathan (39) and Kamran Akmal (24) gave the Royals some hope.
Pathan hammered the first two deliveries he faced for six and when Yuvraj Singh was forced to bring back Sreesanth, Akmal greeted him with three sixes in a row.
There brief but absurdly swift stand of 33 (11 balls) ended when Akmal holed out off of Chawla and hope was all but lost when Pathan followed in similar circumstances, caught by Marsh off of Hopes.
Mahesh Rawat hit a busy unbeaten 23 from 19 but was left with too much to do.
Both sides are through to the semi-finals and could meet again in Sunday's final.
© Cricket World 2008