If Yuvraj Singh being ruled out against the Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) due to back problem was not bad enough, the meek capitulation of their batsmen completed the nightmarish start for the Pune Warriors (PWI).
There was a hint of aerial movement at the Subroto Roy Stadium, but the conditions appeared unplayable the way Pune batted. Punjab were happy to stick to the basics as they watched the hosts self-destruct.
Add to the mix bits of breathtaking fielding and Pune were left vulnerable after being dismissed for a shambolic 99 in their second game. Punjab replied with aggression as the visitors, playing their opening game, completed the rout in 12.2 overs.
Pune’s Manish Pandey fell to an indecisive prod against Praveen Kumar in the first over. Robin Uthappa and T Suman gifted away their wickets.
PWI captain Angelo Mathews was at the receiving end of a Parvinder Awana delivery that squared him up, forcing him to edge it to his counterpart Adam Gilchrist. Marlon Samuels and Ross Taylor were victims of sublime efforts on the field.
Samuels had played the ball to deep square leg. As he attempted a second run, Piyush Chawla released the ball in a jiffy, catching Samuels just short.
Taylor flicked Kumar’s slower ball to fine leg. The 22-year-old Gurkeerat Singh, stationed in the deep ran to his right, leapt and plucked the ball from mid air. The reaction across the stadium was one of shock. A shrug of the shoulders showed that even Gurkeerat could not believe what he’d done.
With Pune's innings in tatters, the former KXIP player Abhishek Nayar stuck it out.
Gilchrist struck 14 runs of Punjab’s first over bowled by Bhuvneshwar Kumar to assert his team’s no-nonsense approach to the chase. Once he was out, Mandeep Singh (31) and Manan Vohra (43 no) continued in the same vein. The duo would clear the left leg and take the aerial route on most occasions, combined with textbook drives.
Contrary to Punjab's display in the field, Ashok Dinda dropped Mandeep and Taylor grassed Vohra, both off Mitchell Marsh. Though both the opportunities came after the game had slipped out of their hands, these are chances PWI will do well to latch on to in the future.