If you had tickets for Monday night’s clash of IPL 7, the one between current favourites Kings XI Punjab and batting heavyweights Royal Challengers Bangalore, you would have considered yourself lucky. At least before the game had started.
With Chris Gayle — playing his first game — Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers on one side and Glenn Maxwell and David Miller on the other, you would get a ringside view of what was expected to be the most explosive (batting wise) match of the UAE leg.
But if you indeed did spend precious dirhams for Monday night’s clash, you will know that your luck has perhaps begun to ebb. Any T20 junkie worth his big hits will tell you that the match was drab. All of four sixes were hit in the entirety of the contest, all of which were scored in the first innings. Two of those four sixes arrived in the very first over of the match.
Yet, there were a few men in the Middle-East who wouldn’t have complained with the show on Monday night — the 11 who took the Dubai field in KXIP’s colours.
Despite breaking into a few buckets of sweat while chasing down RCB’s paltry total of 124 (Punjab lost five wickets and got there in 18.5 overs), the George Bailey-led side managed to prove that they are by far the most convincing leaders that any edition has seen at this stage of the season by delivering their fifth win on the bounce.
On a roll
In their first three games, Punjab proved that no total is big enough when they get down to chasing. The fourth, against Kolkata, showed that they could indeed defend a small total. Today, at the Dubai International Stadium, Bailey and his high-flying team-mates set out to confirm that they could also grit it out with the waiting game. It wasn’t pretty or dramatic, but those factors usually don’t convert to points on the table. Ask RCB’s Gayle, who got his maiden appearance this season to as dramatic a start as any.
Twenty runs sizzled off the Jamaican’s blade not long after Bailey tossed the new ball to off-spinner Maxwell. The very first ball was outside edged for four. The third was a leading edge that carried to the sweeper fence. Gayle missed the fourth and looked like he was trapped in front of leg. When the umpire turned down the appeal, Gayle thanked him with two sixes off the next two deliveries. Alas, he wanted one more.
Facing Punjab’s medium pacer Sandeep Sharma for the first time in the following over, Gayle danced out of the crease and swung long before the ball even reached him. The off-cutter clipped the top of its target and captain Kohli made his way to the middle. Later, when asked why he looked to be in such haste, Gayle answered in one word: “Momentum.”
RCB wouldn’t ever have it. Not after Kohli square-drove a glorious boundary off the first ball he faced and was trapped LBW by another Sandeep off-cutter off the second.
The replays and Kohli’s reaction showed that the ball was missing his leg stump by quite a distance. But the scorecard had had the final word — Sandeep had dismissed RCB’s Big Two in the space of three balls.
RCB of course never recovered. Over the next two overs, only one run was scored. But in that time, they lost two wickets to the wicketkeeper — Yogesh Takawale caught behind off Mitchell Johnson and Parthiv Patel off Sandeep.
RCB had a semblance of a partnership for the fifth wicket as two out-of-form men in Yuvraj Singh and AB de Villiers found the odd boundary. But after de Villiers hit Rishi Dhawan straight to point at the halfway point of the innings, RCB (120-ball 124) and Yuvraj (32-ball 35) did well to get remotely close to a decent total.
Grinding it out
You just knew that this is not what you paid for when Maxwell, long after he was out (caught by a diving Starc at fine-leg for a total of six runs), announced on the microphone to the commentators that the plan was for Virender Sehwag ‘to stick around at one end till the 20th over of the chase.’
But when Sehwag was dismissed for 32 eight overs before planned by the wily Yuzvendra Chahal in a double-wicket over, which included the removal of the fierce David Miller, the match lost anything that resembled an edge.
It would then not come as a surprise that the match ended without fear or fervour, with Bailey and Dhawan pushing their team over the line with a run-a-ball 16 and 23 respectively.