IPL 2016: Vijay's lone hand not enough as KXIP top-order fails again

Kings XI Punjab remain bottom of the Indian Premier League table but they don't really deserve to be there after their match against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Monday night. They lost, but there is no doubting how well they have played in the last two games. In the win against Delhi Daredevils on Saturday, just about everything was perfect. The same was not true on Monday, but they did perform every facet of the game well enough and were unlucky to lose.

Murali Vijay certainly did not deserve to be on the losing side and he has his fellow senior batsmen to blame for it. They had the chance to get themselves off the bottom of the table and while the heady heights of seventh place in the league may not seem like much, it would have been the summit of a great mountain for a team that has been a disorganised shambles for the vast majority of this season.

Murali Vijay of Kings XI Punjab plays a shot. BCCI

Murali Vijay of Kings XI Punjab plays a shot. BCCI

Hashim Amla brought some stability to the top of the order, though not quick runs. There have been times when the Kings XI opening stands have seemed somewhat frenetic, but that was not the case here. With his calm accumulation of 21 runs from 20 balls, Amla allowed Murali Vijay to attack at the other end. Vijay has impressed since taking over the captaincy from the out-of-form David Miller, and his 89 from 57 balls, the second highest score ever by a Kings XI Punjab captain, was close to being the difference between the two sides.

Unfortunately, Wriddhiman Saha and Miller both failed to offer any support to Vijay. His performance was all the more impressive in the absence of Glenn Maxwell, who was either dropped or injured with a side strain, depending on who you choose to believe. The truth may be somewhere in the middle.

But if one overseas player has been asking for the chop from the side, it has been Miller, who has been a shadow of his former self so far in IPL 9. Miller's form has stopped being a crisis and has become a farce. He has an average of 16 in this tournament and a highest score of 31 from 10 innings and has never looked like he is able to time the ball. At least the end came quickly for him on Monday, when he was completely deceived by a googly from Yuzvendra Chahal first ball. This stumping dismissal should convince the Kings XI management that keeping Miller in the side is harming him and the team. The time has come to give him a rest, regardless of how good he has been in the past or how thin the resources are in the squad.

Having sat on the sidelines throughout the tournament, Anureet Singh finally had a bowl and he was immediately impressive, conceding just 15 runs in his three overs. He and Sandeep Sharma did a fine job of keeping things tight as KL Rahul, Virat Kohli and Shane Watson all fell early. Although it was the spin of Axar Patel and KC Cariappa that claimed the wickets, the tightness of the bowling from Sandeep and Anureet played a huge part.

In the absence of yet another Kohli masterclass, RCB had to make do with one from AB de Villiers, who did a brilliant recovery job in combination with Sachin Baby to guide his team with 175-6. But it was a par score at best, and even worse once you factored in the struggling bowlers that Royal Challengers have at their disposal. This should have been a Kings XI win and the one area of criticism for Vijay was he was not there at the end to make sure of the victory.

Vijay was excellent throughout and his struggling team have him to thank for pushing this game as close as it got. It really would have taken only one innings of substance from one other member of the top order to support him, and  Kings XI could have moved away from the bottom. The 89 that Vijay made was his highest score of this tournament and his best effort in the IPL since the 113 he made for Chennai Super Kings in 2012. When Miller failed yet again, Vijay was well supported by Marcus Stoinis, who has been the find of the tournament for the Kings XI, who have had so few moments of success but have rarely been let down by the Australian all-rounder.

Vijay fell with 37 runs still needed and it was clear that a team that was so short of confidence would struggle but Stoinis took up the mantle and almost saw his side home as they lost by just one run.

They still have four matches left in this tournament, and mathematically speaking, they can still qualify for the knock-out stages although it remains massively unlikely. But if they are not going to win games like this they aren't going to win anywhere near enough to make the most of the games they have left. The times that Kings XI have won this year have been when everything has gone their way. As soon as they face an uphill struggle they crumble.

Updated Date: May 10, 2016 12:31 PM

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