Kings XI Punjab (IPL – Twitter)
Mandeep Singh batted through the innings just two days after the death of his father to see Punjab Kings XI to a fifth straight Indian Premier League.
Singh hit 66 and Chris Gayle 51 as unfancied Punjab beat Kolkata Knight Riders by eight wickets and moved into the playoff places for the first time.
Punjab had lost five games before the current winning streak. They have beaten table toppers Mumbai Indians and Delhi Capitals to force their way into contention.
Shubman Gill hit 57 and captain Eoin Morgan 40, but Kolkata managed only 149-9 off their 20 overs.
Singh led the latest Punjab victorious onslaught as they reached 150-2 with seven balls to spare.
He put on 47 for the first wicket with captain KL Rahul and then 100 with Gayle, who smashed five sixes in his 51.
“This was very special. My father always used to tell me you should remain not out in the game. This one is for him,” said Singh who pointed to the sky on reaching his 50, in tribute to his athletics coach father.
Singh said he had to convince Rahul to let him play a slower game while the captain and Gayle went for the runs.
“I told Rahul, ‘if I play my natural game, I can see this through’. So he was okay with me taking my time and he went after the bowling.”
Rahul and Gayle understood Singh’s emotions.
“I am just so proud of him, he made everyone emotional,” said Rahul.
“It was so good to see him look up to the sky. We knew it was a message to his dad,” said Gayle.
The defeat was a double blow for Kolkata who lost fourth place on run rate to Punjab.
Both teams have 12 points from 12 games with two to go.