Having secured just victory one in their last 11 fixtures, it was about time the Kings XI Punjab had a turn in fortunes, although few would have expected the turnaround to come against MS Dhoni's Rising Pune Supergiants. But that is exactly what happened, at Mohali on Sunday afternoon.
This win was thanks to the bowling efforts of the two Sharmas (Mohit and Sandeep), who between them secured figures of 8-0-46-4 as the Supergiants made an uncompetitive total despite a decent start for the second time in two games. Some Glenn Maxwell fireworks finished the job for KXIP, but it was Mohit and Sandeep who made the win possible.
The Kings XI were playing their third match, but one still got the impression that there is an experimental feel to them. That they still haven't quite worked out what their best team is and how it fits together. On Sunday, there was some more shuffling of their overseas players, Mitchell Johnson sitting out, to be replaced by South African Kyle Abbott.
We have got to the point in Johnson's career where the idea of him is better than the reality. He has looked rusty and short of form in the first two games, and for a team that was beaten roundly, a fast bowler who is still finding his feet after close to six months off was a luxury they couldn't afford. Unfortunately for the Kings XI, there were slim pickings for Abbott as well, but he at least looked cricket-fit and capable of troubling teams. The same thing cannot be said for Johnson.
Having signed Mohit for big bucks after he had been so impressive for the Chennai Super Kings, it seems remarkable that he isn't being given the new ball, especially on a green-tinged pitch that was offering seam movement. Sandeep Sharma got the ball to duck in from his very first delivery and had Ajinkya Rahane bowled off an inside edge from a ball that had just enough deviation to deceive the opener. Instead, it was Abbott who was given the new ball, and he was accurate enough but gun barrel straight, allowing Kevin Pietersen and Faf du Plessis to set a decent platform.
For a side with someone of Dhoni's finishing ability Pune have struggled to get to really competitive totals, and in Sunday's match they did so again, thanks in no small part to Mohit and Sandeep, who got more out of this pitch than any other bowler. Thanks to them, the victory target was 153, something that was well within the Kings XI's reach.
With the bat, the best performer by a long distance is Manan Vohra. Probably the least fancied of the top six in this side, he has scored the most runs at the best average for the Kings XI. What's more, he's got those runs at a strike rate of over 150. The most impressive part of the 22-year-old's game is the way he makes his runs with such little drama.
Having replaced Virender Sehwag in this side, he is far from a like-for-like replacement. He scores quickly, but without the stand and deliver method that made Viru so feared. He is a "proper" batsman.
Along with Murali Vijay, he was part of the KXIP's second excellent opening stand this IPL, both partnerships better than any the duo managed in the entire of last season. They quickly put on 97 before Vohra was dismissed for 51 from 33 balls. For a side so short of confidence, the loss of Vijay just five runs later could have presented a big problem. When Shaun Marsh and David Miller also both fell in quick succession, there was a danger of them again falling flat on their faces like a toddler trying to try run before being ready.
They had gone from 97-0 to 119-4 in the space of 24 balls. However, the excellent start had left this game all but over. It would have taken a cock-up of monumental proportions to lose the game from there, but having spent time watching Kings XI over the last 12 months, if any team was capable of crumbling to defeat, it was them. All that was needed was 34 runs from 22 balls with six wickets in hand. A few bad balls hit to the boundary and good running and they would cruise home.
But Glenn Maxwell doesn't play cricket that way.
Having got out for nought trying to hit the ball for six in the last game, few would have blamed him for trying to play himself in and then knocking the ball around. But we should be grateful that he is such an entertainer that he never looked like reining himself in. He did give himself some time, it wasn't until his fifth ball that he hit a six, positively pedestrian by Maxwell's standards. He scored three fours and two sixes on his way 32 not out off 14 balls. You always know what you are going to get with Maxwell, the question is rather whether he will pull it off.
That blistering knock by Maxwell meant that Kings XI Punjab got their first win of this season, the worry is that this will never be the norm for this side. For them to succeed they need so many things to go their way. A pitch that suits Mohit Sharma and Sandeep Sharma, one of Maxwell or Miller to come off in a big way, a solid start from their openers.
For those stars to align more than every fifth game seems so unlikely. So let's just enjoy it when it happens. Well done, team, I am glad you actually won a game. Today, Kings XI are celebrating and their opponents are the Falling Pune Rubbishdwarves.
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Updated Date: Apr 18, 2016 09:17:59 IST