Mohali: A valiant effort from Murali Vijay went in vain as Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) sneaked past Kings XI Punjab by one run in a nail-biting league encounter of the Indian Premier League at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium here on Monday.
Chasing 175, Vijay led from the front with a brilliant 57-ball 89 supported by an unbeaten 34 from Marcus Stoinis, only to his team to fall short by a run.
Vijay, who opened the innings with Hashim Amla, put on 45 runs for the first wicket as the teamraced to 50 in the powerplay.
Amla, who survived a run-out scare on 19, failed to make the opportunity count as Shane Watson sent the South African packing with a short ball which he mistimed to be caught by Stuart Binny at midwicket. His 20-ball 21 included two boundaries.
Wriddhiman Saha (16), along with Vijay added 43 runs for the second wicket only to be run out by keeper Lokesh Rahul and leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal then struck the very next ball to dismiss South African power-hitter David Miller, who failed to disturb the scoreboard.
Stoinis, the architect of Punjab’s previous match’s win against Delhi Daredevils, then joined the skipper, who had completed his half-century of 36 balls, and then went on a spree.
Sensing danger, RCB skipper Virat Kohli employed his old war horse Watson for another spell and the veteran Aussie responded with the much-needed wicket which proved to be the turning point.
Cramped for runs, the Tamil Nadu opener, in his attempt to break the shackles, pulled a short ball from wide of off stump only to be caught by Chahal at the square leg boundary.
Vijay, who added 51 runs with Stoinis for the fourth wicket, consumed 57 balls for his knock, which was laced with 12 boundaries and a six.
With 16 needed off the last over, South African Farhaan Behardien and Stoinis could only add 15.
For the visitors, Watson was the pick of the bowlers with two scalps while Chahal picked one.
Earlier, South African smasher A.B. de Villiers hit a crucially-timed knock of 64 runs to guide RCB to a healthy 175/6.
He was helped in his efforts by Sachin Baby (33 off 29 balls) as they added 88 runs for the fourth wicket.
Legbreak bowler K.C. Cariappa picked up two wickets at the top of the innings (2/16) to become their most successful bowler.
RCB began strongly, putting up 56 in the powerplay without losing a wicket as openers K.L.Rahul (42) and Virat Kohli (20) batted with consummate ease mixing ones and twos with boundaries to score at a fast clip.
Punjab got a chance to break the momentum early, in the third over when Kohli offered a chance after coming down the track to pacer Mohit Sharma but only managed to slice his attempt to backward point. Stoinis however made a hash of the chance.
Rahul added insult to Stoinis’ injury by thrashing three fours and a huge six of the Australian in the next over.
At 61 in seven overs, RCB looked like setting up a big score but the introduction of Cariappa halted their march. He effected a double break in his very first over, off the third and the fifth ball, to account for Rahul and Kohli, respectively.
Punjab completed a turnaround in the next over with left-arm spinner Axar Patel castling Watson (1) to reduce RCB to 67/3 in nine overs.
But De Villers along with Baby guided the team past the 100-run mark in the 14th over, while launching some free-hitting, with Sandeep Sharma and Mohit Sharma receiving some rough treatment as he brought up his half-century in 30 balls.
Brief scores: RCB 175/6 (A.B. de Villiers 64, Sachin Baby 33, K.C. Cariappa 2/16, Sandeep Sharma 2/49) beat Kings XI Punjab 174/4 (Murali Vijay 89, Marcus Stoinis 34, Shane Watson 2/22) by 1 run.