Kings XI Punjab failed in their batting yet again. In the 2014 season, Glenn Maxwell had dominated the bowlers of every other side and his explosive batting helped his team hoist huge scores in several matches. That rampaging batting display is clearly missing in IPL’s 8th edition. Though in Saturday’s match against the Kolkata Knight Riders, Maxwell made 33 off 26 balls and skipper George Bailey once again produced a solid 60 off 45 balls, other KXIP batsmen failed to contribute. The next higher score was 15 by Wriddhiman Saha. 155/9 was not challenging at all. It was another matter that KKR also played wretchedly in the second match on Saturday and allowed Punjab to dictate terms towards the close. There were two players, one each from either side, who stole the show on Saturday night. First was KXIP’s Sandeep Sharma, whose accurate bowling spell created havoc as KKR were reduced from 60/2 to 60/5. The other guy was the Jamaican Andre Russell, who made the decisive difference, when things looked utterly bleak in the KKR’s chase. Russell descended like a demon and hammered the KXIP bowlers with a vengeance. From a position of victory, Punjab’s efforts were reduced to saving the match from Russell’s blunt force. The West Indian scored 66 off 36 balls and snatched the second victory this season for the defending champions. For KXIP, who have been let down by their batting, this was the third loss from four games so far.
Kolkata Knight Riders won the toss and asked KXIP to bat first. The Punjab batsmen found the going difficult against Umesh Yadav, Morne Morkel and Andre Russel as three wickets fell for 27 runs by the 5th over. Murali Vijay fell for a duck in the first over, Saha went in 4th and Sehwag in 5th. For a while, it looked that Glenn Maxwell will lift KXIP out of woods, when he swung his bat to produce 33 off 26 balls but he too fell after taking the score to 90 in the 12th over. After that, only George Bailey kept one end going while wickets fell at the other end with clockwork regularity. If KXIP could reach 155/9 after 20 overs, it was largely due to Bailey’s 45-ball 60 that included 5 fours and 2 sixes. Umesh Yadav and Morne Morkel were the chief wreckers with 5 wickets between themselves for 60 runs in their combined 8 overs.
The victory target of 156 did not look ominous for KKR but like KXIP they too lost early wickets. Sandeep Sharma came up with a devastating spell and he accounted for Robin Uthappa, Gautam Gambhir and Manish Pandey. With Thisara Perera taking Surya Yadav’s wicket and Sandeep Sharma coming back to remove Ryan Ten Doeschate, KKR were in deep trouble at 60/5. But they found a match-winner in Andre Russell, who had the free-stroking Yusuf Pathan at the other end for company. Russell took a while to settle down but once he found his bearings, he began with taking 19 runs off Axar Patel. Russell spoiled Mitchell Johnson’s figures as well with his brutal assault. KXIP will rue that Maxwell dropped Russell, who went on to produce a 95-run sixth wicket stand with Yusuf Pathan. Russell fell only when the scores were already tied. Even after the West Indian was bowled by Johnson for a 36-ball 60, he walked back to a standing ovation as KKR won their second game this season by 4 wickets.