As Ravindra Jadeja took the catch at deep mid-wicket, Glenn Maxwell hung his head in frustration. For the third time in this IPL, the Australian was dismissed in the nineties. Just once during his 38-ball innings here at Barabati, Maxwell mistimed a slog to a Mohit Sharma delivery that was pitched up well outside the off stump.
It led to his downfall.
But in the previous 37 balls that he faced, Maxwell had won the match for Kings XI Punjab. Maxwell had scored 95 off 43 balls against Chennai Super Kings in the first leg at Abu Dhabi as his team chased down 206 for victory in 18.5 overs. But he had a couple of reprieves in that innings. This one was spotless and even more brutal with six fours and eight sixes. It was devastating enough to demoralise any opposition.
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Chennai should be credited for putting up a decent batting performance and finishing at 187 for six in their reply. But 231 has never been chased down in the history of Twenty20 cricket.
It was not a typical Barabati wicket. Rather, a green-top was on offer. “Never seen so much grass here,” said MS Dhoni at the toss as he chose to field first.
Virender Sehwag started off with a gorgeous drive through the covers off Ben Hilfenhaus. Then he hit three more boundaries in the next over bowled by Ishwar Pandey. The veteran was rolling back the years.
Once again Sehwag got out after getting a start (30 off 23 balls). This time, however, he was a bit unlucky as the ball rolled back onto the stumps off an inside edge. Punjab’s most consistent duo, Maxwell and David Miller, paired up in the middle. The Australian, however, was a little sedate to start with by his standards.
Maxwell took about a couple of overs to get going and there was only one boundary in the first 11 balls he faced as Punjab managed just 69 runs in the first 10 overs.
Then there was carnage. Ravichandran Ashwin came on to bowl and Maxwell welcomed him with a six over long leg. The next ball, a full toss, was dispatched over the deep-square leg fence for another maximum. ‘Mad Max’ had the momentum. Ashwin’s second over accounted for 21 runs as a rampaging Maxwell hit him for two sixes and a couple of boundaries.
Dhoni brought on Pandey but the medium pacer, too, was dealt with contempt as Punjab raced to 153 for two after 15 overs. 84 runs were scored in 30 balls before the umpires called the second strategic time-out. Dwayne Smith began the proceedings after the mini break and his first three balls sailed into the stands as Maxwell unleashed a series of gorgeous switch-hits. Miller (47, 32 balls) got out in the final ball of that over and a 135-run (64 balls) third wicket partnership was broken. Maxwell’s contribution to that association was 84. He was holed out in the 18th over and walked back to a standing ovation after scoring 90 off 38 balls.
Bailey adds to misery
Captain George Bailey put icing on the cake with a magnificent 13-ball 40 not out. Punjab scored 162 runs in the last 10 overs. Chennai needed a big opening partnership to put their rivals under pressure. But it was not their night. A very impressive Sandeep Sharma removed Smith in the first over. Raina departed after a promising start and finally Brendon McCullum’s run out — a direct hit by Mitchell Johnson — finished the game as a contest. Faf du Plessis’ effort, 52 runs off 25 balls, helped reduce the victory margin.
After the odd slip against Mumbai Indians, Punjab returned to winning ways and regained their position at the top of the table (on net run-rate). Chennai suffered their second defeat of the tournament after six wins on the bounce. But there was no shame in this loss. They were done in by a special innings.