IPL 2017: Sandeep Sharma returns to dismantle Delhi Daredevils as Kings XI Punjab bowlers finally deliver

Sunday afternoon in Mohali would have felt like vindication for Glenn Maxwell and Virender Sehwag. Time and time again the Kings XI brains trust have persisted with the all-Indian bowling attack maintaining that they are capable of doing the job that is required of them. Time and time again they were let down, until finally on a slow Mohali pitch under the baking sun they dismantled the Delhi Daredevils batting attack and dismissed the visitors for a paltry 67.

After each demoralising loss in which his bowlers couldn’t handle the pressure, Maxwell leapt to their defence, he said they had their plans, and everyone knew what they had to do but they just couldn’t deliver when it mattered. Still he kept the faith in an attack lacking real penetration or experience. After Sunday’s effort, he will feel justified in doing so.

Sandeep Sharma of Kings XI Punjab celebrates Sam Billings' wicket. Sportzpics

Sandeep Sharma of Kings XI Punjab celebrates Sam Billings' wicket. Sportzpics

On the microphone to the commentators during the game, Australian batsman Shaun Marsh said the local bowlers were all extremely talented, and that’s why they had been backed in to do the job. In previous matches they had failed when the heat was on but this time they not only succeeded, but they passed the test with flying colours.

Maxwell has always been keen to win the toss and bowl first, knowing his side’s weakness is the bowling attack and the ability to defend a score. He never would have expected, no matter how strong his faith, that the seamers would lead a rout like the one in Mohali against the Daredevils.

It all started when the returning Sandeep Sharma, by far Kings XI Punjab’s most impressive and reliable seamer, found the edge of Sam Billings’ bat in the first over of the match. From there on it was a procession, led by Sandeep’s spell of 4/20 off his four overs which included a stunning left-handed catch off his own bowling to get rid of the dangerous Shreyas Iyer.

Sandeep’s success on the slower Mohali surface was a lesson in simplicity and execution. The Punjab medium pacer isn’t blessed with great pace instead relying on swing and subtle seam movement to keep the batsmen guessing. Sandeep is most dangerous with the new ball and often bowls two or three overs up front before returning at the death, a testament to the faith shown in him by Maxwell.

In this 10th edition of the IPL, Sandeep has been below his usual miserly best, often copping a hammering in the later overs just like his pace bowling colleagues. Usually the skillful right-armer strikes early putting the opposition on the back foot but until the Delhi game he hadn’t been up to his usual standard with the new ball. In fact, Kings XI had been the worst performed bowling side during the powerplay in this year’s tournament before Sunday’s game.

Sandeep turned that around against Delhi, rediscovering his immaculate line and length which has made him such a dangerous and consistent customer over the years. The pitch and conditions didn’t necessarily call for Sandeep’s prodigious swing, instead he attacked the stumps and managed to extract enough seam movement to cause problems for the Delhi batsmen. Unable to respond, the Delhi top order folded, consistently playing too early and mistiming the ball — leading to soft dismissals.

Sandeep’s brilliant opening was backed up by the rest of the bowlers for the first time this season. Maxwell’s main weapon Axar Patel also returned to form claiming 2/22 and was backed up by a controlled spell from his captain who only conceded 12 runs in his four overs while claiming the big wicket of Rishabh Pant. That Maxwell was able to bowl four overs was largely thanks to his main bowlers being on form, rather than being born out of necessity as was the case against the Sunrisers on Friday night. If the skipper is able to keep his recent good form with the ball going it will provide a huge boost for the bowling attack and give him another spinning option to support Axar.

While it was the impressive Sandeep whose mastery of the conditions led to the destruction of the brittle Delhi top order, he was ably supported by the rest of the seamers in the attack. Sharing the new ball was young left-armer T Natarajan, returning to the side after recovering from a niggle, and the youngster impressed in the early stages. Natarajan was good in his last outing as well and will now look to build and add more consistency to his game.

Varun Aaron, who was only brought on in the 14th over, and Mohit Sharma shared three wickets between them for only six runs in just over three overs. While they showed greater control than in previous matches, the pressure was well and truly off by that stage as the damage had been done by Sandeep.

Maxwell has insisted on playing four overseas batsmen and relying on the local contingent of bowlers this tournament, and until now the decision seemed a poor one. Now his bowlers have stood up and shown what the captain knew they were capable of the real test still awaits against the better sides and when the pressure is really on. Kings XI will be hoping the bowlers can take this form and confidence forward into the rest of the tournament and deliver the goods when opposition batsmen come after them.

Time will tell if they back up Sunday’s strong showing.

Updated Date: May 01, 2017 13:23 PM

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