In Tuesday night’s match played at Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Shikhar Dhawan won the toss for Sunrisers Hyderabad and asked Kings XI Punjab to bat first. The decision was presumably aimed at precluding the KXIP batsmen to mount their now famous herculean chases. But little did poor Dhawan know that the Big Max was ready for anything, one way or the other. In this season’s KXIP team, there are two Australians, who previously played for Mumbai Indians. Of them, only Mitchell Johnson played a stellar role, though the MI managers made no attempt to retain him during the February auctions. Interestingly, Glenn Maxwell was also a part of MI but he warmed the benches on most occasions, except for three matches, where his role was not significant. In contrast, in each of the current season’s three matches, Maxwell has been named the player of the match for his sensational knocks.
Cheteshwar Pujara and Virender Sehwag put on 51 for the first wicket, before Sehwag got out after 6.4 overs for a whirlwind 30 in 22 balls with 3 fours and 2 sixes. When Pujara fell as the second wicket on the last ball of the 11th over, KXIP had reached 86/2. By this time, Glenn Maxwell had already got into his groove with David Miller for company. In the next 27 balls the KXIP score jumped by 64 runs to reach 154/3, when Miller departed. Maxwell was still unstoppable, as he whacked one six after another and before he finally called it quits, he had already amassed 95 off 43 balls with 9 sixes and 5 fours. The KXIP score got embellished to 179/4 at the end of the 18th over. Maxwell had a life, when David Warner dropped a straight forward catch but all this is the part of cricket. KXIP batting saw some slowdown in the final overs, otherwise the score would have easily crossed the 200 mark. However, even the score of 193 was no less challenging. The Max-factor had worked again to the great advantage of his new franchise, which acquired him at a throwaway million dollars bargain price during the IPL auction in February. The UAE spectators could not have asked for a more devastating batting performance this season than that produced by Maxwell. The Australian first enthralled them with two brilliant chases last week, after the oppositions had mounted huge totals and yesterday, KXIP were required to set a challenging target and Maxwell did not disappoint.
Aaron Finch and Shikhar Dhawan opened for Sunrisers but Dhawan fell cheaply in the second over itself. Shikhar Dhawan and MI’s Rohit Sharma are two of the identical type. Both have lost on their true batting forms and they both have added responsibilities of leading their sides. Dhawan has failed to understand that in recent times, Finch and Warner have exhibited great camaraderie, when playing together as openers and it would be a lot better for Sunrisers to open with such time-tested pair. But like Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan refuses to take cognizance of realities. Though Finch began with the first over six and hit a boundary in the 2nd over, he did not look confident from any angle. Warner, who had joined him after the fall of Dhawan’s wicket, also appeared listless. Lakshmipathy Balaji bowled a brilliant 5th over, in which he removed both Finch and Warner. With three top order batsmen back to the dug-outs and the chase looking hopeless at 33/3, KXIP’s target began to appear monumental. Sunrisers Hyderabad do not have great depth in their batting. Venugopal Rao was the fourth wicket to fall at 49 in the 7th over and the asking rate went uphill. Sunrisers had brought Irfan Pathan to replace Ishant Sharma for this match but Pathan did nothing to merit his selection. In the KXIP innings Pathan conceded 28 in 2 overs that he was allowed and coming as a batsman, he did even worse by scoring just 5 singles off 9 balls, before falling to a slog sweep. He completely missed the line of the ball and allowed it to shatter his stumps. Only Lokesh Rahul batted sensibly for Sunrisers but he ran out of partners. Rahul top scored with 27 off 27 balls and when he fell as the 7th Sunrisers’ wicket at 95 in the 15th over, steam had already gone out of the chase. The Sunrisers’ tail-enders did not appear capable of creating any last-minute miracle after their more accomplished colleagues had failed to hunt down the massive KXIP score. In the end, the SRH innings folded at 121 all-out in 19.2 overs giving KXIP a one-sided victory by a 72-run margin.