MUMBAI: Punjab Kings buried Royal Challengers Bangalore under a deluge of runs as they kept their play-off hopes alive with 54-run victory, riding on superb half-centuries from Jonny Bairstow and Liam Livingstone in an IPL match here on Friday.
Bairstow (66 off 29 balls) and Livingstone (70 off 42 balls) propelled Punjab Kings to 209 for 9 in a must-win game and the scoreboard was always going to be telling as RCB were restricted to 155 for 9 in 20 overs.
While Punjab remain in the mix with 12 points from as many games, the margin of victory considerably improved their net run-rate to +0.210 and RCB despite having 14 points from 13 games are at a -0.323.
RCB will have to win their final game and move to 16 points but also now need to have some rub of the green with a few favourable results going their way.
It was another day and another failure for Virat Kohli (20), who got a faint under-edge tickle on his gloves before it hit his thigh pad and bobbed up to short fine leg off a Kagiso Rabada (4-0-21-3) delivery. Rabada was literally unplayable on the day as he worked good pace and hit the ideal fuller length for better part of his spell.
Rishi Dhawan (4-0-36-2), perhaps the weakest link in Punjab attack, then made up for his lack of pace by hitting immaculate length as Faf du Plessis edged one to Jitesh Sharma behind stumps and Mahipal Lomror's rasping pull shot was taken by Shikhar Dhawan.
Rajat Patidar (26) and Glenn Maxwell (35) did add 64 runs but they were never in the game with both departing in quick succession. And when Dinesh Karthik (11) was snuffed out by the brilliant Arshdeep Singh (4-0-27-1) with a wide yorker and a catch by short third-man on the circle, RCB fizzled out in a jiffy.
Earlier, Bairstow's opening blitzkrieg found its ideal match in Livingstone's finishing carnage.
While Bairstow laid the foundation with a 29-ball-66, Livingstone was equally good in his 42-ball-70 as the RCB bowlers had a day which they would like to forget in a hurry.
Bairstow, who was rusty during the earlier phase of the tournament, was back in his element with as many as seven sixes and four boundaries during a knock where he literally went hell for leather.
Such was his dominance that by the time six overs of Powerplay ended, Bairstow had hit seven towering sixes and Shikhar Dhawan (21 off 15 balls) rubbed salt to the wound with another one which made it eight in all.
Punjab Kings, which had set the template of blazing Powerplay starts, got 83 in six overs with Glenn Maxwell (1/17 in 2 overs), Josh Hazlewood (0/64 in 4 overs) and Mohammed Siraj (0/36 in 2 overs) being treated with utter disdain.
While Maxwell did manage to get Dhawan, both Hazlewood and Siraj were guilty of bowling short on a pitch offering true bounce. Bairstow effortlessly pulled and flicked them into the stands and by the time, deliveries pitched up, they landed in the stands as well. It only helped that the boundary on one side was 66 metres only, which is a dream for any power-hitter.
Siraj had a forgettable first spell where he was hit for four sixes, while Hazlewood in his first over had gone for 22. The Australian had his worst IPL figures ever.
However post Powerplay, once Wanindu Hasaranga (2/15 in 4 overs) and Shahbaz Ahmed (1/40 in 4 overs) started operating, RCB stemmed the flow of runs with some tight wicket-to-wicket bowling.
Bengal left-arm spinner Shahbaz was rewarded for his tight lines as Bairstow finally mistimed one and Siraj did well to pouch the skier.
After 83 in the first six, there was a drastic dip in scoring as 22 came in between 7th and 10th overs.
Both Hasaranga and Shahbaz bowled wide outside the off-stump not letting Livingstone and Agarwal to charge down the track. Still the Englishman managed a couple of sixes and a reverse swept boundary to continue his good form in the competition and then muscled into the stands towards the fag end even as Harshal Patel (4/34 in 4 overs) was exceptional at the death.
His fifty came off 35 balls and by the time he was out, he had four out of those 14 sixes in the Punjab innings.