IPL 2017: Kings XI Punjab's insipid bowling attack nullified Hashim Amla masterclass

After three away losses in a row, Kings XI would have looked forward to returning ‘home’ to Indore where they won their first two matches. Unfortunately for them, the venue could not overturn their fortunes and after six games of this IPL season they look like a very mediocre cricket team.

Ishant Sharma of Kings XI Punjab falls during the match against Mumbai Indians. Sportzpics/ IPL

Ishant Sharma of Kings XI Punjab falls during the match against Mumbai Indians. Sportzpics/IPL

Things started well enough for Kings XI Punjab with Hashim Amla putting on a masterclass in Twenty20 batting to record an unbeaten century, finishing on 104 off just 60 balls and guiding his side to an impressive total of 198/4 on a good batting pitch. Unfortunately for Kings XI the classy South African’s first Twenty20 hundred was overshadowed by yet another atrocious bowling display.

In the last three matches, it had been the batting that let them down, although to be fair the bowling hadn’t set the world on fire either. But against the Mumbai Indians on Thursday night the bowlers came in for an absolute hammering at the hands of Jos Buttler, Parthiv Patel and Nitish Rana in particular. Mumbai started like a house on fire with Buttler and Parthiv taking a liking to the three Sharmas — Sandeep, Ishant, and Mohit. Mumbai ended the powerplay on 82/1 and didn’t take their foot off the opposition’s throat, eventually winning by eight wickets with 27 balls to spare.

The sameness of Kings XI’s attack once again proved to be their weakness. Four of the six bowlers used were right arm seamers, none with any great pace, and the other two were left arm orthodox spinners. As the carnage unfolded, captain Maxwell seemed bereft of ideas as the weakness of his bowling line up was exposed again.

If it wasn’t for Amla, the night could have been so much worse for the Kings XI. Amla had started the tournament slowly, although not poorly, but showed his class and skill in Indore in the way he timed his innings to perfection. Amla is renowned, and well respected, for his prowess in Test cricket, and even ODIs. But people have often doubted whether a batsmen of his style – one who relies on timing and precision rather than brute force, would be successful in T20 cricket. Well, Amla showed against Mumbai that he is no one trick pony and he has the all-round game to match it with the world’s best power hitters while maintaining his aesthetic qualities.

Building gradually in the powerplay before exploding towards the middle and end of the innings, the elegant right hander showed he could mix power with his usual lavish strokeplay. There was some classic Amla timing and wristwork during his brilliant century, as well as some unexpected punch and power – particularly down the ground.

Amla used his strong wrists to great effect to go over the offside a couple of times, and his sublime timing returned as he picked gaps, and cleared them, with more and more ease as his innings went on. In the company of his captain Maxwell they took to Mitchell McClenaghan and Lasith Malinga in the middle period of the innings and provided the real impetus to get the team up towards the 200 mark. Unfortunately for Punjab, Amla’s masterclass was in vain.

In a tournament littered with overseas stars many people forget that the IPL is an Indian domestic tournament, and it is the teams with the best local talent that are the most successful. In the last two seasons, Kings XI have finished dead last and struggled to get their squad, and team balance, right. These problems are coming back to the surface as the losses pile up and Kings XI look a long way from turning their fortunes around.

Kings XI’s squad, and team is stacked with international batting stars who until Thursday night had been misfiring. Against Mumbai in Indore, the batting held firm to post a good total, if maybe 20 short on a good batting surface, but the bowling was horribly exposed again. Unfortunately for Virender Sehwag and Maxwell they don’t have many options available to them to resurrect this slide as there is a dearth of quality Indian players available to them. With Murali Vijay and Manan Vohra missing against Mumbai due to injury, and Vijay for the whole tournament, Kings XI are forced to play four overseas batsmen to strengthen the batting – not that they have many other options as Matt Henry is the only frontline bowler in the squad.

So despite the batsmen, in particular Amla, finally playing their part Kings XI were still on the end of an almighty walloping. And with a misfiring bowling attack, and a lack of better options and bench strength, this run of poor form is starting to look ominous for the team from Punjab. In the IPL the games come at you thick and fast, which provides opportunities for quick redemption but also leaves little time to turn things around before your season is over. Kings XI will want to arrest their downward spiral before it snowballs into another failed season.

Updated Date: Apr 21, 2017 08:12 AM

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