Kings XI Punjab’s 2017 Indian Premier League campaign has been very stop-start in nature, every time they appear to roar to life, they splutter and stutter to another defeat. Against a Royal Challengers Bangalore side devoid of any confidence, and anything to play for, Kings XI were rescued and led to victory by their two local stars.
All season Kings XI’s batting has been an enigma, probably a reflection of the captain, they have looked brilliant in patches and downright horrendous in others. Friday night in Bengaluru started poorly, and seemed destined for a potentially season ending defeat before all-round star Axar Patel stood up to add some respectability to the score.
Not for the first time has Punjab’s batting seemed bereft of any leadership, which was typified by one of the most baffling innings seen all tournament by their captain Glenn Maxwell. The dynamic Australian played a few outrageous swipes at leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, a man who has hid his measure in IPL cricket, before skying an attempted switch hit to be dismissed for just six runs off eleven balls.
For some strange reason Maxwell had decided to push himself down to number six, sending in an out-of-sorts Wriddhiman Saha ahead of him, but his innings was even more mind boggling at a time when his team required a stable captain’s innings to lead them out of the mire.
Luckily for the skipper and his team they have Axar. The lanky left-arm spinner has been his side’s saviour on more than one occasion this IPL season and his fantastic late order hitting once again rescued his side from humiliation. On a slow M Chinnaswamy surface with the ball holding up and turning, Axar was able to strike at a mightily impressive 223.52 runs per 100 balls. To put this into context, only two of Axar’s teammates, one of them a top order batsman, had a strike rate better than 100.
Where his teammates struggled to even rotate the strike, particularly against the three-pronged spin attack of Chahal, Pawan Negi and Samuel Badree, Axar was able to bat freely and find the rope with relative ease. Axar’s success was based on a simple approach, as opposed to the complex one of his captain. Axar managed to clear the rope by getting his front foot down the pitch and out of the line of the ball so he could use his long levers to swing through the ball.
Despite Axar’s heroics, Kings XI posted a modest 138/7, a total that shouldn’t have been enough against an RCB line-up containing some of the biggest names in IPL and Twenty20 cricket. That Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers were unable to chase down the total, or even offer any real contribution, is down to the fantastic opening spell of Sandeep Sharma.
The Punjab medium pacer’s spell of 3/22 from his four overs, all bowled up front, led his side to victory. Sandeep first claimed Gayle for a duck, the fourth time he has dismissed the big West Indian in IPL, before knocking over Kohli’s stumps with an inswinger. De Villiers then went after Sandeep, hitting him for a four and a six, before he too fell victim to Punjab’s king of swing — edging one through to Saha.
Sandeep’s spell was a masterclass in swing and seam bowling, not to mention his control over line and length. His ability to respond to De Villiers’ attempted onslaught displayed great maturity from the former Indian under-19 player.
Despite a slight dip in form mid-tournament, Sandeep has claimed 14 wickets to be Kings XI’s leading bowler, and along with Axar Patel, their real shining light. Axar backed up his brilliance with the bat with a great three over spell of 3/11 to showcase his ever-improving all-round skills.
Maxwell has often stated Axar is a superstar and his main man is certainly backing up the captain’s claims this IPL season. Not only has he played a handful of match saving and winning innings, often playing a lone-hand when Punjab have been let down by their senior batsmen, he has been consistent with the ball as well taking crucial wickets and keeping things tight in the middle overs.
In combination with the skipper’s go-to seamer Sandeep, Axar was able to lead Kings XI to an important 19-run win and keep their playoff hopes alive. With four games to go and every win crucial, Kings XI will be thanking their lucky stars they have Axar and Sandeep, now they’ll be hoping for some support for their star duo.
Updated Date: May 06, 2017 09:09 AM