Rising Pune Supergiant stormed into the playoffs, earning at least two more matches, and the opportunity for an IPL title before signing out of franchise cricket. They demolished Kings XI Punjab in a knockout match at home to book a spot in the first qualifier against Mumbai Indians on Tuesday. Kolkata Knight Riders will take on defending champions Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Eliminator in Bengaluru on Wednesday.
Kings Paupers XI
Steven Smith made a mention of the moisture in the Pune pitch, and his bowlers made excellent use of it with cross-seamers that tempted the on-the-up drive. On a bare surface, those deliveries come on nicely and batsmen can hit through the line. On this one, offering more purchase, such shots were ill-advised. The ball zipped through or bounced extra, and Kings XI were 32 for 5 in the Powerplay. They were then all out for their lowest total in the IPL – 73.
The surprise strike-force
Jaydev Unadkat started it all, having the big-hitting Martin Guptill caught at short cover off the first ball of the game. He ran out Eoin Morgan with a direct hit from mid-on. A little later, he pulled off a smart, diving catch at short fine leg. Finally, he finished with 2 for 12, only four wickets behind Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the most successful bowler in IPL 2017, having played three fewer matches. Unadkat’s strike-rate of 10.8 is the second-highest among anyone that has taken 10 wickets in the tournament.
“My palms were sweating when I was in the bus,” Shardul Thakur admitted in a mid-innings interview. But once he took a look at his workplace, he quickly perked up. “When we started, it [the ball] was sticking [in the pitch] a bit, and the cross-seamers worked.”
He had Shaun Marsh spooning a drive to mid-off in his second over, forced Rahul Tewatia to top-edge a pull to the wicketkeeper, and finally had Glenn Maxwell flicking a leg-stump half-volley into the hands of long leg. The Kings XI captain, who had pushed himself down to No. 6, finished IPL 2017 having played only 18 balls in the Powerplay and lost his wicket thrice.
A little batting practice
Prior to Sunday, Ajinkya Rahane averaged 19.07, his lowest in a season since 2008, when he played only two matches. A target of 74, whilst being too little for a batsman to sink his teeth into, can still give him the opportunity to spend time at the crease. Rahane made sure to last the entirety of the chase, and hit the winning runs too, a six over long-on. Pune will want as many of their gun players in form to fill the hole that will be left by Ben Stokes – 316 runs and 12 wickets in 12 matches – who leaves for England tonight.