This was all very odd. For the first time in this season’s Indian Premier League, the Kings XI Punjab lived up to their potential. For so long less than the sum of their parts, in this match against Delhi Daredevils on Saturday night, they did just about everything right. They batted with aggression and precision in the powerplay, used that solid base to accelerate, and even when they lost wickets in a clump at the end of their innings, still managed to keep going, to reach their highest total of this tournament so far. When it was their turn to bowl, they again did well, bowling to a plan and on one side of the wicket and performing brilliantly at the death.
In attempt to shore up the batting which has struggled this season, KXIP think-tank went for four overseas batsmen, one of whom was Hashim Amla brought in to replace the injured Shaun Marsh. Surprisingly, he didn’t open with Murali Vijay, with Marcus Stoinis going in ahead of the South African. Stoinis didn’t blast away in the powerplay, but he did make a career best of 52 and in the process laid a foundation for a first innings score of 181-5, better than anything the Punjab side have managed so far in this IPL.
Amla was unfortunate to not hang around longer as the newness of the team became apparent; there were two close run-out calls before he was finally dismissed in that manner. Stoinis and Wriddhiman Saha then put on a partnership of 58 in 6.5 overs, meaning the loss of Amla was not too keenly felt.
After Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell took up the mantle and looked to be heading for a decent score when a yorker from Chris Morris nutmegged him and smashed into his middle stump. When Saha fell to the very next ball, there were 11 balls still left in the Kings XI Punjab innings and the two batsmen at the crease were yet to face a ball. This could have seen the side crumble but David Miller and Axar Patel both did well at the end, with Patel continuing to build his reputation as a late order six hitter. It was a credible batting performance. There was little more they could have done. Having spent so much time criticising the tactics and the execution by this team, there is nothing to pull them up on.
Even in the field, things were much better, with only one catch going down, a tricky chance that David Miller failed to take to dismiss Karun Nair. But that didn’t prove too costly, with Miller catching Nair in the very next over. Just as Delhi looked to be cruising to victory, a great comeback in the last few overs from Mohit Sharma and Stoinis left Delhi needing more than 12 an over, and eventually 25 off the final six balls. Mohit found some reverse swing and hit his yorker length, and Stoinis did a great job of varying his pace, as he claimed three wickets to go along with his 50 with the bat.
With none of the overseas bowlers playing, there was a huge amount of pressure on local players Mohit Sharma and Sandeep Sharma. Much was expected from Mohit on the back of his excellent returns for Chennai Super Kings, and Kings XI had paid big money at the auction to secure his services. Until now he had underwhelmed, but he turned the game here. He bowled seven dot balls in the 15th and 19th overs, conceding just seven runs. Sandeep was equally impressive at the death, and while he conceded more runs than Mohit, he helped push the rate up.
It really was a remarkable turnaround from a team that has been so poor for so much of this season. With six overs to go, Delhi Daredevils required just 54 runs to win with eight wickets in hand. The game was all but over with the explosive batting that Delhi had. But Kings XI clawed back and then overtook Delhi on the way to a near faultless victory. Few would have seen this coming.
The only real shame about this performance is that it comes at a point where their season is all but over. It would take a miracle of Leicester City proportions for them to make the knock-out stages, let alone win from here. For their fans who have had a terrible time over the last two seasons, this performance will make them think their team can actually give them something to cheer, both this year and next, but to put in the first proper display of your talents when the season is already more than half done is far from perfect. Even though they won on Saturday, Kings XI remain bottom of the league.
Up next they have the misfiring Royal Challengers Bangalore, and if they play as well as they did here, it will take a Virat Kohli masterclass to beat them, but as Kohli seems to do one of those every game, it may well be another loss for the team for Kings XI.
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