Kings XI Punjab defended a modest 167 against second-placed Kolkata Knight Riders at the PCA Stadium in Mohali, to keep their playoffs hope alive. Asked to bat first, it took a quickfire 44 from skipper Glenn Maxwell’s bat to help KXIP to a fighting score in their final home game. With Chris Lynn anchoring the chase, KKR were cruising at one stage but the Punjab bowlers put on a fine display to script a dramatic comeback – one that saw them win by 14 runs to stay keep their 2017 campaign alive.
Punjab throw away good startOvercoming a lean patch, Manan Vohra gave KXIP a solid start with a boundary spree in the powerplay, off Sunil Narine and Umesh Yadav. But KKR made a powerful comeback with three wickets in the space of next five overs. Vohra was the first to depart as he gloved one to the wicketkeeper. Guptill fell in the succeeding over, as he missed his sweep and was trapped in front of the stumps off Narine. Shaun Marsh settled in with a couple of boundaries off Colin de Grandhomme, but Chris Woakes cleaned him up to reduce the home side to 56 for 3 inside nine overs, after being put in to bat first.
Maxwell blast revives KXIPIn 11 overs, Punjab had managed only 67 on the board, at a little more than six an over. Against KKR’s batting depth, this lowly run rate wouldn’t suffice. Glenn Maxwell, the Punjab skipper, then took matters into his own hands and plundered two sixes off Grandhomme to up the ante. After watching Kuldeep Yadav for an over, Maxwell took him on in the next one and dispatched the left-arm chinaman into the deep midwicket stands twice before falling off the next delivery. The skipper’s 25-ball 44 was not only the best score of Punjab’s innings, but also provided the necessary impetus in the middle overs to push for a respectable total.
All this while, Saha was giving Maxwell company, scoring a rather uncharacteristic 38 in the process. For a better part of his 33-ball knock, the Punjab wicketkeeper was lagging behind, scoring at less than run-a-ball. And just when it looked like he was set to push the accelerator, hitting Kuldeep for a six in the over after his skipper’s departure, the wicketkeeper-batsman was done in by a wrong ‘un. Rahul Tewatia, who got his first game of the season, hit a few handy boundaries to take the final score to 167 – one that eventually proved sufficient.
There’s only so much Lynn can doThat Punjab had to find a way to separate the dynamic opening duo of Narine and Chris Lynn early on to have a realistic shot at defending this score was no secret. And they did manage to, in the fourth over, but by then, the pair had added a quick 39 in 21 deliveries. And it was sufficient time for Lynn to settle into his rhythm. The Australian picked a liking for Matt Henry, Punjab’s other debutant tonight, and hit him for three boundaries and a six within powerplay to lay the platform for the chase. Despite losing Narine at the other end, it was business as usual for the Australian batsman who guided the visitors to 61 for 1 at the end of six overs. Given KKR’s batting might, there was only one result possible from there on.
Lynn brought up his third IPL fifty but soon after KKR were dealt with a double blow when Tewatia got rid of two of their most prolific batsmen – skipper Gambhir and the returning wicketkeeper-batsman Robin Uthappa – forcing him to slow down a bit. Manish Pandey played a rather sedate innings but Lynn ensured KKR stayed abreast with the required run-rate by finding the occasional boundary and smacking a six here and there.
KXIP turn the game on its head in death oversForty-four off the final four overs wasn’t too tough, more so when you have Lynn going strong at one end. All hell broke loose in the 17th over when Pandey and Lynn fell off successive balls. Mohit Sharma’s 16th over that went for only seven created the pressure. And that, in turn, consumed Pandey as Henry opened his account. It was Lynn’s run-out next that hit KKR the most. In his bid to keep the new batsman off strike, the Australian called for a risky second run but failed to make his ground. Yusuf Pathan’s wicket off the first ball of the penultimate over was, probably, the final nail in the coffin. With 20 to defend off the final over, Maxwell handed the ball to his go-to man Sandeep Sharma who resorted to his trusted weapon – the yorkers – to apply the finishing touches. With the 14-run victory and two points in the kitty, KXIP are now breathing down SRH’s neck for that fourth-place finish.
Where do they go from here?Signing off from their home ground, KXIP have ensured that unlike the previous season, they won’t exit the IPL without an almighty fight. A lot of credit for that must go to the first-time captain Maxwell. He leads his team next to Wankhede, to face off against the table-toppers on Thursday before finishing off in Pune on Sunday. Remember, both these fixtures are still must-win games for Maxwell & Co. KKR, on the other hand, return home to Eden Gardens for their final game against Mumbai Indians on Saturday.
Brief scores: Kings XI Punjab 167/7 in 20 overs (Glenn Maxwell 45, Wriddhiman Saha 38; Chris Woakes 2-20) beat Kolkata Knight Riders 153/6 in 20 overs (Chris Lynn 84; Rahul Tewatia 2-18, Mohit Sharma 2-24) by 14 runs