Kings XI Punjab are up against it. They have just lost the wicket of David Miller. The scorecard reads 75 for 5 after 13 overs. Another 76 required from 42 balls. Axar Patel joins Wriddhiman Saha. Saha, India’s reserve wicketkeeper; Saha, the deputy to MS Dhoni. Now the deputy needs to emulate the master and pull off a miraculous chase.

Saha keeps his cool under pressure....

Saha seems to have learned one thing from Dhoni. The key to hunt down targets is all about bridging the gap between the number of runs required and the number of balls left. He is not going hell for leather, he is just scampering between the wickets. He drives one ball through covers and Ravi Bopara dives acrobatically to stop it from going to the boundary. But Saha has already completed two by the time the ball is returned to the keeper.

Moises Henriques bowls a slow cutter and Saha dabs it with soft hands towards midwicket. The fielder is on the boundary and Saha and Patel sneak two more. He does the same again to Bhuvaneshwar Kumar next over. Short ball pulled to midwicket for another two. Good going. Kumar is not happy. David Warner wants more effort from his fielders.

Saha has not yet hit a shot in anger. He is 25 from 27. He has got his eyes in. The target is now 52 from 25. The fielding side is feeling the pressure. They were thinking they had the match wrapped up a few minutes back. Now is the time to make the next move.

Last ball of Bhuvaneshwar’s over. He bangs it halfway down. Saha is camping on the backfoot. He swivels and swings his bat in a smooth arc. The ball makes a pleasant sound as the bat smacks it. It goes over midwicket comfortably for half a dozen.

Saha is executing the MSD algorithm perfectly. The bowlers are looking rattled. The fielding captain is confused. The target is now 46 from 24. Warner has two options. Should he bowl out his ace paceman Trent Boult, or should he keep him for the end?  He decides to go for the latter option. Praveen Kumar is called upon to bowl the 17th over.

Praveen Kumar had used the yorker efficiently in the game against Kolkata Knight Riders in the death overs to win the match for his team. He follows the same tactics here. Saha, though, is ready for it. He gets his front foot out of the way, makes a bit of room for himself, takes the ball on the full, and scoops it over cover for four. Is it really happening for Saha today? He has a history of near misses.

In the last IPL final, he played a blinder of a knock (115) to get Kings XI to 199. But Manish Pandey’s counter-act took KKR to victory. Last year, in the first Test match of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy at Adelaide, Saha had a good partnership going with Virat Kohli in the fourth innings when India were chasing a steep target. But after hitting Nathan Lyon for consecutive boundaries he lost his cool and was bowled. His dismissal triggered a collapse and India lost the match after gaining the upper hand.

Back to the chase. The target is now down to 35 from 18. The partnership is already worth 41. The Mohali crowd is jubilant. The Kings XI Punjab bench looks chatty again. Warner is not going to hold Boult back any longer. Boult is on his runup and he is going to bowl the yorker. The whole ground knows that, as does Axar Patel. He gets his bat down to squirt it away through the off side. But the ball sneaks in. The sound of timber silences the crowd, which is watching their team play at Mohali for the first time this season.

....But fails to cross the final hurdle

Saha has to do it all on his own now. He channels the AB de Villiers in him and tries to paddle a full ball outside off to fine leg. It hits his pads and runs away for four. The umpire gives it as runs. Maybe, just maybe, it is Saha’s day finally.

Not really. He miscues a pull of Boult, a shot which has been productive for him throughout. It lobs up in the air and goes only as far as Praveen Kumar at square leg. The umpires are checking for the no-ball. The side-on angle shows that no part of Boult’s foot is behind the line. Maybe it really is Saha’s day.

They are checking the angle from the stumpcam. A portion of his heel is behind the line. Not a no-ball. Not Saha’s day. He still has to wait for his Dhoni moment. With 42 off 33 balls, it’s yet another near-miss.

Top order disappoints again

Kings XI could manage only seven more runs after Saha’s wicket fell. They succumbed to a 20-run defeat chasing a modest total of 150 against a disciplined swing bowling effort by the Sunrisers. Last year’s runners-up were on the losing side for the fifth time this season.

The change in the top order, which saw Manan Vohra getting his first game in place of the disappointing Virender Sehwag, did not pay off. Vohra dragged one onto his stumps, as did Shaun Marsh soon after.

George Bailey played a casual shot uppishly to mid-off, while Murali Vijay gifted his wicket away with some ordinary running. Vijay has been run out 11times in the IPL, a record he shares with Gautam Gambhir and Venugopal Rao.

Disciplined bowling to restrict Sunrisers to 150

Earlier, though, Kings XI justified Bailey’s decision to bowl first with a spirited bowling performance. At one stage, it looked like David Warner would take the game away, but Kings XI clawed their way back after Warner was dismissed for 58 off 41.

Their bowlers did not bowl even a single wide or no-ball, and everyone chipped in with wickets. Axar Patel and Mitchell Johnson got two each and Sandeep Sharma and Anureet Singh bagged one each. Vijay bowled tight lines and conceded just 16 runs in his three overs, ensuring that the weakness of the fifth bowler was not exposed.

Time is fast running out for the Kings XI management, and with the business end of the league approaching, they better get the combination right and put together a string of victories to mount a challenge to the table toppers.

Sunrisers Hyderabad (150 for 6) beat Kings XI Punjab (130 for 9) by 20 runs.