Gone are the days when Mandeep Singh had to try really hard to convince his father, an athletics coach, that he had what it took to become a first-class cricketer. The 20-year-old opening batsman from Jalandhar, who enjoyed a good domestic season with Punjab, proved to the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium crowd on Tuesday why his choice of sport was spot on.
Since captain Adam Gilchrist's hamstring injury, the team had basically relied on foreign trio of Shaun Marsh, David Hussey and Azhar Mahmood to see them through. However, the former India under-19 vice captain has managed to upstage the big names and carve out a niche for himself at the top of the order in Gilchrist's absence.
On Tuesday, Mandeep grabbed the limelight with a solid 75 off 48 balls, which included eight fours and three sixes, which put the visitors in a sound position against the misfiring Chargers. He also overtook opening partner Marsh as the highest run-getter for the Kings XI Punjab this season.
For the Chargers, playing their first game on their home ground, it was nothing short of a disaster. Unable to mount a convincing chase, they finished on 145 for eight, losing by 25 runs. The result meant the Kumar Sangakkara-led team, already languishing at the bottom of the points table, have managed to win only two games out of the 12 they have played so far.
Carving a niche
Opening in his fourth consecutive game, Mandeep posted his highest IPL score in the city of Nizams. With a brilliant first class record to his credit - 1074 runs in 13 matches at an average of 63.17 - Mandeep has oozed class this season. After all, his 56 against the Chennai Super Kings and 43 versus the Royal Challengers Bangalore had led to victories.
From the first ball, he began to attack. In the second over, he hit a four and a six off successive balls. He and Marsh had notched up 55 runs until the Australian left-hander was bowled by Shikhar Dhawan's spin on 22.
However, local seamer Ashish Reddy gave the IPL-starved Hyderabad fans some hope to cling on to after dismissing Nitin Saini (2) while David Hussey (16) was caught by Daniel Harris off Veer Pratap Singh.
Coming up short
After notching up his second half-century of this season, from just 31 balls, it almost felt nothing could stop the Punjab youngster from reaching his maiden ton. But he fell trying to force the pace, foxed by a slow leg-cutter from the 21-year-old Reddy which clattered into his off-stump. Mandeep knew it was a big opportunity missed as he hit himself on the helmet in disappointment before walking away.
Although all-rounder Azhar Mahmood, who has been vital to the revival of Kings XI, was run out following a terrible mix-up, the absence of pace spearhead Dale Steyn's express deliveries - the South African sat out due to a niggle - meant Kings XI still managed a solid total.