Ravi Bopara’s fine innings of 84 led Punjab to a seven wicket victory over Bangalore in Durban.
The Englishman was a picture of concentration and exhibited controlled brutality throughout his innings, which yielded four fours and five sixes. He watched as Karan Goel and Kumar Sangakkara fell in pursuit of an imposing 168, but never seemed flustered and shared a 66-run partnership with Yuvraj Singh, before falling having virtually secured victory.
There’s much work to do for Bangalore, who have now lost three on the bounce. Their bowling attack lacks quality, their fielding is decidedly mediocre and their top order needs to start making bigger contributions if they hope to be involved at the business end of the tournament.
They started well enough with the bat despite losing Robin Uthappa early in the innings. Jesse Ryder signalled his intent from the outset, striking the ball cleanly, including blasting 18 in an over, en route to 32 off 21 deliveries. He will, however, lament the manner of his dismissal – slogging recklessly across the line and being castled by Yusuf Abdulla.
His departure saw run-shy slugger Kevin Pietersen join Jacques Kallis at the crease. As the tournament’s most expensive signing there is much expected of Pietersen. But he has struggled at the crease and didn’t fare any better this time, checking his shot after being deceived by Abdulla and lobbing the ball straight to short extra cover for a duck.
Rahul Dravid, conversely, has been fairly prolific to date, but the classy Indian failed to replicate his previous heroics, contributing just 10 before Kallis and Ross Taylor stabilised the innings with a 61-run partnership.
Kallis was conventional in his approach but still kept the scorecard ticking over furiously until he mistimed a pull shot to Mahela Jayawardene off the bowling of Abdulla – dismissed for 62 off 46 balls.
Taylor had a good rhythm going at this stage and ensured the innings didn’t lose momentum. He finally became Abdulla’s fourth wicket, the Dolphins seamer and Jayawardene again combining.
Bangalore were probably 15 runs short of a target they would have envisioned at the outset of their innings and did themselves no favours by missing their areas to Bopara and co. Ultimately they were their own worst enemies, but credit has to go to Bopara and his support cast, who played beautifully to secure a vital win.
Bangalore 169 - Jacques Kallis 62, Ross Taylor 35, Yusuf Abdulla 4-31.
Punjab 173/3 - Ravi Bopara 84, Yuvraj Singh 30*.
Punjab won by seven wickets
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