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IPL 2017: Kings XI Punjab's spinners step up against Gujarat Lions to help end losing streak

Kings XI Punjab finally ended their four-match losing streak with a comprehensive 26-run victory over cellar dwellers Gujarat Lions. The battle between the two struggling sides was always going to be a contest of two top-heavy batting lineups packed with overseas stars and rather weak, local bowling attacks.

In the end it was a decent first innings score, some early wickets, and plenty of scoreboard pressure that saw the flawed Kings XI finish victorious and claim their first scalp on the road.
Kings XI were once again asked to bat first, a good decision by Gujarat skipper Suresh Raina as they had failed to defend 198 in their previous game. The onus was immediately on the Kings XI batsmen to make a big score to ease the pressure on their downtrodden bowling attack, but how many runs were going to be enough?

KC Cariappa and Glenn Maxwell of Kings XI Punjab celebrate a wicket during their match against Gujarat. Sportzpics

KC Cariappa and Glenn Maxwell of Kings XI Punjab celebrate a wicket during their match against Gujarat. Sportzpics

In the end, 188 proved to be enough and they got there thanks to another classy innings from Hashim Amla, and some support from Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell and the lusty late-hitting of Axar Patel. During Amla’s partnerships with Marsh and Maxwell, Kings XI looked on for a score of 200 or more, which they would have hoped for on a good batting track. However, they once again lost wickets just when they looked dangerous. Luckily, Axar was able to clear the ropes towards the back end to ensure his side reached a defendable total.

While they won the game and compiled a strong total, Kings XI won’t be satisfied with their batting performance, particularly the dismissals of Marsh and Maxwell. The captain in particular was guilty of a rash shot, dismissed attempting a switch hit against Ravindra Jadeja. The recent form of Marcus Stoinis and Wriddhiman Saha will also concern the Kings XI think-tank.

What will definitely please Maxwell and mentor Virender Sehwag is the way the Kings XI bowlers responded after being hammered to all parts by the Mumbai Indians just a few nights ago.

Sandeep Sharma was back to his best with the new ball, once again claiming an early wicket, this time of danger man Brendon McCullum. There is still plenty of room for improvement for Sandeep — particularly in his death bowling — where he once again leaked runs, ruining his overall figures. While it didn’t cost Kings XI against the Lions, it has previously and could again if they don’t improve in that department.

Although the pace attack has been under fire regularly, which led to some changes such as the inclusion of T Natarajan in place of Ishant Sharma, the spinners have been Kings XI’s best so far this season. In particular Axar has been a standout, even if he has been a little expensive by his standards in the last couple of games some of this can be attributed to a lack of support and pressure from the other end.

Against the Lions, Axar was back near his best, particularly when he bowled slower through the air and managed to extract some turn from the Rajkot pitch. Every time Axar returned to his stock pace and trajectory, he became easy pickings for the batsmen. While it took him time to work out what would work best on a slower surface offering some grip, once he found his rhythm he proved a handful for the Gujarat batsmen and finished with impressive figures of 2/36.

As good as Axar has been this season, often playing a lone hand for his side, he was upstaged against Gujarat by young mystery spinner KC Cariappa. Cariappa has been in and out of the side so far this IPL but after his fantastic spell of 2/24 — in which he was on a hat-trick — he might have just cemented his spot in the Kings XI lineup.

Cariappa definitely worked out the conditions quicker than his colleague, bowling with flight and guile to deceive the batsman through the air and off the pitch. Cariappa proved difficult to score off, particularly boundaries, as it was hard to line him up.

The 23-year-old Karantaka bowler is listed officially as a leg-spinner but his bowling style appears to be moulded on West Indian Sunil Narine, who he spent time with at Kolkata Knight Riders in 2015. Carriappa proved difficult to pick for the Lions batsmen due to their being no obvious change in grip or action between his stock leg-spinner, carom ball, and off-spinner.

Often a bowler who has all the variations can be guilty of trying too much too often — Ajantha Mendis and young Ravichandran Ashwin spring to mind, but Cariappa showed maturity against the Lions to keep things simple and rely on accuracy as much as variety. The challenge for him now will be to sustain it and be consistent.

Kings XI’s victory was clinical and an impressive return to form, but there are still doubts and concerns when it comes to their bowling attack and it’s ability under pressure. If Cariappa can build on his strong showing and provide support for Axar then it will go some way to providing the captain with two stable spin options he can rely on.

Updated Date: Apr 24, 2017 08:55 AM

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