The Kings XI Punjab juggernaut rolled along nicely, picking up a nerve-wracking four-wicket win over the Delhi Daredevils to become the first team in IPL 2014 to seal a playoff spot.
Choosing to field first, the KXIP bowlers did wonderfully well in the death overs to restrict Delhi Daredevils to 164 for seven, which the Punjab franchise chased down in the final over, finishing on 165 for six in 19.4 overs, thanks to an early smash from Manan Vohra (42) and a late finish from Akshar Patel (42 n.o.).
With 18 points in 11 matches, KXIP have assured themselves of a place in the final four, while the Daredevils remain winless in India, courtesy their seventh straight defeat.
Manan Vohra and Wriddhiman Saha had keyed KXIP's blitzing victory over the Sunrisers in their last game, and this time Vohra yet again came to the fore, making everyone think just why on earth he was kept back until their 10th game, especially when he was one of only two players retained.
Vohra's hitting was clean, measured and quite wonderful to watch, with a six over covers off the back-foot a makes-you-sit-up-and-admire shot out of the top draw. Vohra's blitz of 42 from 19 balls (4x4, 3x6) allowed Virender Sehwag to just stay calm and not take too any risks, even if he might have got out early had Imran Tahir held onto a difficult catch running behind.
Of the 67 runs in 38 balls partnership, Sehwag scored just 15, with the veteran more than happy to have the best seat in the house as the 20-year-old Punjab boy smashed the bowlers with great disdain, before perishing in the seventh over to Tahir, who bowled brilliantly and was unlucky to end up in the losing side.
Glenn Maxwell was given a greater ovation than most Delhi players would receive from their home fans, with the Australian showing his intent, not like he has any other, by smoking a six off Tahir. The South African leg-spinner did have Maxwell's number, though, foxing him with his variations and skills through the air, and it came as no surprise when Tahir picked up Maxwell (14, 11b, 1x6), castling him off a nice googly.
In between that battle, Sehwag (23, 22b, 2x4, 1x6) had also walked back to the pavilion after holing out in the deep off JP Duminy, with the DD off-spinner then scalping David Miller, and with it ensuring there would be no M & M show at the Kotla.
Vohra's early onslaught had brought the required run rate to under seven, but with Kings XI on 94 for four following Miller's wicket in the penultimate ball of the tenth over, DD sniffed a way back into the contest.
Skipper George Bailey kept himself back, sending Saha and Akshar Patel ahead of himself, and the India duo did pretty well, taking the singles, knowing the run rate required was not too steep, and putting on 33 in five overs. Saha fell in the 15th over to Mohammed Shami, who otherwise had a forgettable evening, giving away 39 runs in his four overs, leaving Patel (42 n.o., 35b, 5x4, 1x6), who played a brilliant little hand, and Bailey to knock of the remaining 38 runs from 30 balls.
Bailey, however, failed to find his finishing powers, falling for a seven-ball six, setting the game up nicely in the final over with KXIP needing nine. Rishi Dhawan (8 n.o., 5b, 1x4) stepped up against Wayne Parnell, however, and finished the match off with two balls to spare.
Earlier, the Delhi Daredevils looked on course for a score of above 180, only to lose their way in the middle-to-late overs to eventually end up with a score just above 160.
Kevin Pietersen again put himself at the top of the lineup, with Murali Vijay for company; not for too long though, as the India Test opener fell in just the third over, with Sandeep Sharma yet again picking up an early wicket courtesy an outstanding catch from Beuran Hendricks, in for Mitchell Johnson.
Dinesh Karthik came in at No.3 as the DD batting lineup wore a more assured look, with Pietersen, looking in the mood, a rare occasion, unfortunately, in IPL 2014, allying for a nice partnership with his fellow right-hander.
The two experienced batsmen put on 71 in just 48 balls, setting the perfect platform to go slam-bang in the final overs. Pietersen (49, 32b, 6x4, 1x6) looked nailed-on for a big score finally in this year's IPL, playing a few delectable shots through the offside, but that wicket curse the DD batsmen seem to be under hit in the 11th over, with Patel (one for 18) castling the skipper – the left-arm spinner, Pietersen's bane, yet again coming to haunt him.
JP Duminy came in but could not quite maintain the momentum, managing just 17 runs in his 21 balls, even if Karthik (69, 44b, 7x4, 3x6) took on the aggressor's mantle to great effect, finding the boundaries at will.
Duminy's wicket in the 17th over, with DD on 140, though, triggered a collapse, with the Daredevils losing four further wickets in the space of a couple of overs as KXIP tightened the ship considerably, conceding just 20 runs in the final three overs, which in the end proved to be the difference.