Even when the opposition has made grand plans to stop the main man, Kings XI Punjab have managed to win this season. Glenn Maxwell scored big in four matches and they all ended in victories, but KXIP also won thrice when he missed out with someone else taking charge.
Kolkata Knight Riders faced a similar situation on Sunday. They set up and executed plans to silence Glenn Maxwell and David Miller but Virender Sehwag threatened to steal their thunder.
KXIP were eventually restricted to a modest total and overhauled it thanks to skipper Gautam Gambhir’s (63 no, 45 b, 7x4) mature batting, but it could have easier had the bowling and fielding against Sehwag been sharper. Still, given the form Kings XI are in, KKR would have taken 149 any day. In the end, they won by nine wickets.
Their masterstroke was the last five overs, shared between Sunil Narine, Umesh Yadav and Piyush Chawla, costing only 33 runs. That and the quick dismissals of Maxwell and Miller turned the match in the Knights’ favour.
This came about despite Robin Uthappa grassing Sehwag’s catch in the fourth over, off Morne Morkel, highlighting the importance of having a regular wicket-keeper. Or the leg-before appeal from Ryan ten Doeschate in the 12th over, after Sehwag was struck on the back foot, that could have gone either way.
However, Sehwag (72 – 50 b, 11x4, 1x6) continued to go for his shots, after he got one of the easiest opening overs from Jacques Kallis, which went for 17 runs. Having helped himself to four boundaries in the first over, there was no looking back for him.
That lessons had not been learnt was evident in the way Morkel bowled at Sehwag’s pads or how he continued to open his bat to run down the ball to the third man boundary, something MS Dhoni had successfully stopped in the earlier match here. Eventually Sehwag played on after dancing down the pitch to a half-tracker from Piyush Chawla in the 15th over.
The leg-spinner had taken the crucial wicket of Maxwell, finishing with three wickets.
Kings XI were on 112 then. With David Miller joined by skipper George Bailey, they could count on a good finish but KKR bowlers didn’t allow the pace and line to free their hands. It was a stifled end for Kings XI.
KKR were backed by consecutive century partnerships. Openers Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa matched each other shot for shot before Uthappa was caught in the deep.
KKR’s problem of losing wickets in a cluster could have cropped up, but Gambhir made the difference. And it came with some help from Kings XI.
Bailey spilled Gambhir’s catch at square-leg, off a miscued pull, in the 17th over. But on a day when most things went wrong for Kings XI, this was on expected lines.