It’s the 16th over of Kings XI Punjab’s chase of a mammoth 207 set by Sunrisers Hyderabad. Shaun Marsh is batting magnificently on 84 off just 49 deliveries and he is the last man standing between the Sunrisers and a comprehensive victory. Captain David Warner turns to his strike seam bowler, purple cap holder Bhuneshwar Kumar, for a wicket and Bhuvi delivers. Marsh skies a knuckle ball slower delivery into the outfield and the catch is held by Deepak Hooda.
And there is the difference between the two sides, and the tale of the tape for what so far has been a sorry season for Kings XI with just three wins from their first eight games. When Sunrisers need a wicket, or to stem the flow of runs, Warner can turn to Bhuvi, or his gun spinner Rashid Khan. Glenn Maxwell can’t turn to anyone, certainly not any of his seamers, and in Mohali on Friday night he had to rely on himself. To his credit the skipper returned impressive figures of 2/29 off his four overs – that he had to bowl his full allotment as no more than a part-time offspinner is an indictment of the strength and performance of his bowling attack.
Maxwell won the toss and once again opted to bowl, or more accurately opted to chase because he knew his bowlers are incapable of defending a score so he might as well hope his stacked batting line-up can chase down whatever they concede. Unfortunately for Maxwell his bowlers couldn’t hold up their end of the bargain and conceded 207.
On a good surface, against a rampaging Warner and Shikhar Dhawan at the top of the order it is no surprise Kings XI conceded so many as their seamers once again struggled to maintain anything resembling pressure or a decent line and length. Experienced quick Ishant Sharma started well, as he can do, but ruined his figures with an awful 19th over of the innings, as he so often does.
Ideally Maxwell wouldn’t have to use Ishant at the death, which says a lot about a bowler who has played a lot of international cricket but still hasn’t worked out a method that will work at the end of an innings, but he was devoid of options. Anureet Singh, brought into the side because T Natarajan was out with a niggle, conceded 26 off just two overs while Mohit Sharma had fared only slightly better conceding 34 off three. Mohit was still entrusted with the 20th over, because if not him then who else?
Maxwell was forced to use his trump card Axar Patel in the powerplay, due to the shoddiness and inaccuracy of Anureet, against two left handers who were well set. Both Warner and Dhawan had made flying starts to the innings and made clear their intentions to attack Axar and try and smack Kings XI’s best bowler out of the attack. The move worked, Axar was unable to quell the attack and he conceded 17 runs in his first over, which included a rare drop from Wriddhiman Saha behind the stumps.
Saha’s drop, albeit a tough chance, wasn’t the only blemish from Kings XI in the field with a series of misfields and fumbles gifting easy runs to the Sunrisers on a surface and against a bowling attack, where such generosity was most unnecessary, but most welcome for the visitors.
KXIP ended up losing the match by 26 runs, finishing on 181/9 on the back of a classy knock from Marsh. The effort in the chase, while stuttering, was commendable but if Kings XI could have bowled and fielded better they could have been chasing a much more gettable score of around 190 which would have been about par on a Mohali pitch with pace and consistent bounce that allowed batsmen on both sides to play freely.
There appears to be little solution to the KXIP’s bowling woes on the bench, T Natarajan if fit will probably return in place of Anureet as the left-armer was impressive in his last match. Sandeep Sharma was left out against SRH and the swing bowler hasn’t been at his best in the last few games.
It might be time for KXIP to sacrifice one of their overseas batsmen and bring in New Zealander Matt Henry to strengthen the brittle bowling attack.
With Hashim Amla out injured and Guptill impressive in his absence, albeit with a brief cameo, Eoin Morgan would be the most likely to make way if Henry was selected. The Irishman has looked out of sorts, particularly against spin so far this IPL and it might time for him to make way so Kings XI can strengthen a bowling contingent that is desperate for some leadership and solidity.
There is no guarantee that Henry is the messiah who can lead Kings XI to the promised land, but if they continue with the same tried and tested, and failed, methods then it could be a tough second half to this IPL. How Maxwell wishes he had someone like Bhuvneshwar in his side.