In their third match of the season, the Kings XI Punjab dugout was smiling. As openers Murali Vijay and Manan Vohra tore apart the Rising Pune Supergiants bowling, Glenn Maxwell and David Miller, both under pressure to score, could laugh.
The KXIP bowlers had done well to restrict Pune to a manageable 152, and now it was the batsmen’s turn to do their bit. Vijay took the lead by carting young left-arm spinner Ankit Sharma for two boundaries. At the other end, Vohra played himself in before hammering Ishant Sharma for three consecutive fours.
As the duo raced to an opening-wicket partnership of 97 off 12.2 overs, the equation looked simple for the hosts. But the Pune slower bowlers, led by Murugan Ashwin, pulled things back towards the end.
Vohra was the first to go, out for 51 off 33 balls to Ankit Sharma. Soon M Ashwin, who has consistently managed to overshadow his illustrious teammate and senior spinner R Ashiwn, was in the act as he removed Vijay for 53, and later cleaned up Shaun Marsh.
As Miller perished trying to push for boundaries, Pune had a glimmer of hope, and it took some lusty blows from Maxwell to get KXIP across the line. Maxwell, who remained unbeaten on 31 off 14 balls, first carted M Ashwin for a six and four and followed it with a six and four off R Ashwin’s 18th over to bring the equation down to nine off 12 balls.
Before the match, Kevin Pietersen had said his side was a few run short in their loss to Gujarat Lions. So before the start of Sunday’s match against the struggling KXIP, fireworks were anticipated.
KXIP had struggled with both bat and ball in their two losses, but on Sunday the bowlers managed to turn things around. Firstly, skipper Miller dropped Mitchell Johnson, ineffective so far, and brought in Kyle Abbott. As Sandeep Sharma, KXIP’s best bowler for a few seasons now, gave another early breakthrough, the side managed to keep things tight against the Pune line-up filled with big hitters.
Ajinkya Rahane dragged the ball onto his stumps off Sandeep’s third over, but Pietersen and Faf du Plessis added 55 off 5.5 overs to give the much-needed impetus to Pune’s innings. Just when it seemed Pietersen was lining up for a big score, he was snared by Vohra off Abbott.
Steve Smith and du Plessis then had a partnership of 63 but the KXIP bowlers managed to pull things back. Mohit Sharma not only sent Smith back but also accounted for Dhoni and du Plessis to restrict Pune to just over 150. Mohit, returning from an injury, bowled a miserly spell and snared three wickets for 23 runs.
The win would have brought relief for KXIP, for Dhoni it will be back to the drawing broad. This is the second time the Pune batsmen fell short. “We let KXIP take the game away from us. We haven’t started firing yet,” said Smith.