A couple of days back, Kings XI Punjab skipper George Bailey had stayed sober amidst the euphoria after his side had overhauled a two hundred plus target against Chennai Super Kings in their opening match of IPL 7. “This isn’t going to happen everyday,” said Bailey while focussing on the need to tighten their bowling.
As things turned out, ‘it’ happened all over again. The Punjab bowlers leaked 191 runs against Rajasthan Royals. But just as in their opening game, first Glen Maxwell and then David Miller took the side to the win with plenty to spare. This time they reached the target with 8 balls and seven wickets in hand.
Between them, the two smashed 140 runs in 64 balls. Of the 11 fours that the side scored, eight were hit by Maxwell who scored 89 off 45 deliveries. Miller, who was unbeaten on a 19-ball-51 didn’t hit a single four but smoked six sixes off the 12 in total his side scored, with Maxwell hitting the rest.
Before Maxwell and Miller stole the show, Rajasthan must have fancied their chances. History – they had never lost a game while defending more than 190 – was on their side as was the fact that Punjab were 10/2, with Virender Sehwag and Wriddhiman Saha out cheaply, when Maxwell walked into bat after 2.4 overs.
There was little time to settle in and that anyway isn’t how Maxwell is known to bat. He swung at the second ball he faced off Dhawal Kulkarni and barely missed getting an outside edge. A little later he got a leading edge that just eluded fast bowler Kane Richardson. For a significant period of time after that though, the ball would do nothing but find the middle of the Tasmanian’s blade.
Rajasthan quick Richardson was flicked for a six then flat batted down to long on for four. When Pravin Tambe came on to bowl, the leg spinners first ball was swatted over mid wicket. Next over it was James Faulkner’s turn to be hit for a couple of sixes.
Rajasthan skipper Shane Watson tried to reign in Maxwell by getting the slow bowlers on and packing the leg side boundaries. To cut off Maxwell’s pressure releasing reverse sweep, Watson even had three men around point. It worked for a while – Tambe and Rajat Bhatia squeezed out three overs for just 13 runs as the required run rate creeped over 12 runs at the half way mark.
But Maxwell would not be contained, The 11th over of the innings bowled by Bhatia was hit for three reverse swept boundaries – the last going in front of square. The next over from Dhawal Kulkarni went for 17 – with Maxwell now threading orthodox cover drives through the infield. When Bhatia returned to bowl his cutters, two sixes followed.
With seven overs to go, Watson was forced to bring back his strike bowler Richardson and the pacer had Maxwell mistime to be out caught while going down the ground. Punjab still needed 66 off 37 and another wicket might have brought Rajasthan back into the game. But there would be little respite as the wicket only brought Miller to the crease.
Miller took seven balls to hit his first six—off leggie Tambe, but then hit another five in his last 12 deliveries. Four of them came in what turned out to be the penultimate over of the innings– bowled by Dhawal Kulkarni and the last off the bowling of James Faulkner both finished the match and took the South African to a second consecutive fifty.
As effortless as the two match winners were, opener Cheteshwar Pujaras looked laboured. Pujara was outscored by his two teammates, with Maxwell noticeably farming the strike. Batting throughout the innings Pujara played 38 balls for 40. He managed three fours – the second of which was an inside edge. The third was an uncharacteristic scoop shot off Faulkner. When he tried to repeat the shot again he only got a deflection onto his body and gingerly hobbled through for a single.
Earlier, 19-year-old Sanju Samson gave ample display of his class with his 52-run knock which came off just 34-balls and was laced with three fours and four sixes. Watson too was at his vintage best as he smashed his way to 29-ball 50, which was studded with eight boundaries including three sixes.
The two shared an explosive 74-run stand for the third wicket in just seven overs before Watson was bowled while going for a slog sweep. Down the order Steve Smith hit five fours in his unbeaten 27 off 15 balls as Royals looked to have a challenging total. While Miller and Maxwell may have bailed out the side once again, Bailey would be concerned about his bowling display. Murali Kartik took a wicket of his first delivery but was hit for 50 runs after that. Spearhead Mitchell Johnson too looked out of sorts although he bowled a couple of cheap overs at the death.