After a brief flirtation with victory normal service has been resumed for the Kings XI Punjab as they were roundly beaten by Kolkata Knight Riders on Tuesday night.
This was an almost exact rerun of the loss to the Delhi Daredevils last week as KXIP set a poor total and then never looked like defending it. There were some runs for Shaun Marsh which were welcome but other than his contribution there was little to excite the fans. In fact seven of the batsmen could only manage single figure scores.
The win against the Rising Pune Supergiants on Sunday was secured on the back of everything going Kings XI’s way. A pitch that suited the seam bowling of Mohit Sharma and Sandeep Sharma allowed them to keep things tight in the middle and death overs. But on Tuesday, the Mohali pitch was much more to the liking of KKR's spinners. Sunil Narine, Shakib-al-Hasan and Piyush Chawla picked up wickets, but more importantly that all of them kept things tight.
In Sunday’s win an excellent opening stand between Murali Vijay and Manan Vohra allowed them to chase the target down with ease. Here their leading run scorer Vohra departed early and the Kings XI never recovered from the momentum that was lost with this wicket. Instead they stumbled to a score that was always too small.
While in the last match we had the kind of innings which has made Glenn Maxwell a worldwide superstar that was full of cuts, pulls, reverse cuts and reverse pulls and all the other bells and whistles in his repertoire, in this game his hit and miss technique was firmly on the miss setting. Who knows how long it will be before he flips the switch to the right mode again.
A third loss in four games isn’t even the biggest worry for the rest of the tournament, the real problem is the form of David Miller. From the start of the World T20 until now he is averaging just 12 runs, his highest score in this IPL season is just 15. Without him firing as a batsman or as a leader things are looking bleak for the men from Mohali.
Miller is looking so short of confidence it is difficult to know what he can do to fix it. What is certain is that the Kings XI can’t afford to drop their captain so he needs to find a way. Miller is a class act who has a track record of success in the IPL, he will come good. The concern for his team is how long it will take before he is back to living by his “if it’s in the arc, it’s out the park” mantra that has brought him so much joy in the past.
There were some positives, there are always some if you look hard enough. The big one here was the batting of Marsh who showed what he can bring to the side. In a middle order that is full of dashers, Marsh is the one that can provide the cement that holds it together. If he can rotate the strike while the likes of Maxwell, Miller and Wriddhiman Saha go big there is the makings of a very decent batting line-up. All that is needed for that to happen is for Maxwell to find some consistency and Miller to locate some form. Simple.
By the time KXIP had set 139 to win it was a foregone conclusion that yet another chasing side would win a game in this year’s IPL, and the batting of Robin Uthappa made it look like the game would be over very quickly. He brought up his fifty off just 24 balls and by the time he departed with the score on 82 in the ninth over the required rate for KKR was down to just five an over.
Some stumbling to get over the line from KKR made the result look a lot closer than it was, but they still won with six wickets and 17 balls to spare. By the time
Between them, the three Kings XI seamers bowled eight wicketless overs that cost 82 runs. The spin bowling of Pardeep Sadu was the only truly bright spark on the bowling front, claiming 2-18, although Axar Patel held his own to pick up two wickets in this three overs. The problem for Kings XI was that the game was already lost long before the two spinners combined to make the Knight Riders have to do some work for the win for the first time in the match.
It is very difficult to know where Kings XI Punjab go from here. While there is some debate about how you get Marcus Stoinis into the side after he impressed in their first game this is, by and large, their best team. They are short of a truly world class spin bowler, and David Miller, their captain and best player, is short of confidence and form. They really need to hope for conditions that favour them and some Maxwell masterclasses to get them through. Their season is four games old and it already seems much, much longer than that.