So close, yet so far: Impressive showing fails to take KXIP over the line

After a brief flirtation with success in their last match, normal service resumed for Kings XI Punjab on Wednesday, as they lost to Kolkata Knight Riders. All the classics were there: None of their bowlers took a wicket, the only successes coming from run-outs. There was a dropped catch when Mohit Sharma walked in front of what would have been a simple take for David Miller.

But while there was a lack of wickets, the KXIP bowlers didn't lose control. However, their batting still made a mess of pursuing a simple target and the team racked up loss number six for the season. They remain rooted to the bottom of the table, and though they are not mathematically eliminated from the tournament yet, they are now just making up the numbers.

Until the time Glenn Maxwell was batting, Punjab had a genuine chance. BCCI

Until the time Glenn Maxwell was batting, Punjab had a genuine chance. BCCI

As this terrible season continues, you can't help but think of their fans. In some ways, the excellent performance against Gujarat Lions makes Wednesday's showing even worse. As a follower of the England cricket team throughout the 1990s, I am well aware of how it is the hope that really hurts. It makes you think that there is a chance of better times ahead before those thoughts are snatched away from you like when the school bully stole my brand new football and punched me in the stomach because I asked for it back.

Aristotle may have said that hope is a waking dream, but when you follow a terrible side it becomes a nightmare. It raises your expectations to a level that means they can never be met. The elation caused by such an excellent win against the top-placed side was quickly followed by a comedown that was expected yet painful. It's easier when they just lose every game, that way you can enjoy the fatalistic sneering at the team you follow that allows you to believe you don’t really care about results anyway.

Having taken just three wickets with run-outs in Kolkata’s innings of 164-3, Kings XI Punjab proceeded to lose their first three wickets inside the first 19 balls of their innings. Marcus Stoinis made a three-ball duck and Manan Vohra lasted just five deliveries before he too departed for zero. Vohra had been brought back into the side after missing the win over Gujarat, replacing the injured Shaun Marsh, who won't play again in this year's IPL.

In a real rarity for IPL cricket, Kings XI played only three overseas players, with the management deciding a local player was a better bet than either Kyle Abbott, Mitchell Johnson or Farhaan Behardien and to be honest, they were probably right in that assumption. Hashim Amla has been called into the squad to replace Marsh and you would think he not so much walks into this team, more sprints into the opening spot.

When Kings XI were 53-4 in the ninth over, that nasty hope was all but gone, but then Glenn Maxwell got the fans believing again. He started slowly but played with real authority on his way to 68 from 42 balls. He had kept the asking rate under control, and if he was batting at the end of the innings his team would have won. As ever with Maxwell, he infuriates as much as he entertains and when he was dismissed LBW attempting a reverse sweep off the leg-spin of Piyush Chawla, the hope went with him.

David Miller has lost the captaincy but is yet to rediscover his form. He should have been out first ball but for an amazing piece of good fortune. A ball from Brad Hogg spun past his legs and clipped the bails, but they did not budge off the top of the wicket. As it was, he did not make the most of that lucky break and struggled his way to 13 off 18.

In the last match it was Axar Patel's hat-trick that set up the win, and he came close to pulling off something even more remarkable with the bat on Wednesday. He smashed his first two balls for sixes and was on 21 off seven balls, when he was run out at the non-striker's end by a piece of outstanding fielding from Andre Russell in the final over. Russell swooped down to field a ball drilled back at him, turned around and threw down the stumps.

This was far from the worst performance the Kings XI have put in this IPL; of their six defeats in eight matches this season, this was the most impressive loss. Even after the top order failed so spectacularly, they went into that final Russell over with a decent chance of winning, and with Maxwell at the crease, they were favourites.

At the post-match interview, Murali Vijay said there were a lot of positives to take out of this defeat, something even David Miller said a lot while he was captain. But for the first time, it was an accurate statement. If the top order had not folded so easily, this would have been an easy win for KXIP, and the arrival of Amla should prevent that from happening in the next match. Here is to hoping for a win.

Updated Date: May 05, 2016 10:33 AM

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