As a rule of thumb, a commandment almost, one must not feed Glenn Maxwell with width. A poster reading: ‘Thou shall not commit to his Arc’ must be pasted in dressing rooms of sides that take on Kings XI Punjab in IPL 7.
The bowlers should learn and memorise it, till they can recite it in their sleep. Especially if they are spinners. Loopy leg spinners. Especially if Maxwell has just collared the previous ball for six over deep square leg.
In the off chance that they do break this holy commandment and in the off chance that Maxwell mistimes his hit and skies it to long-off, then the fielder positioned there must not commit the sin of dropping it. Especially if Maxwell, conjurer of 95 and 89 runs in his previous two innings, is batting on just 12.
Having said all this, you perhaps would’ve guessed that that’s exactly what unfurled on an incredible Tuesday evening in Sharjah.
In the 10th over of Punjab’s innings, Karn Sharma – the most expensive uncapped player in this season – was brought on to bowl by Sunrisers Hyderabad captain Shikhar Dhawan. Dhawan had in fact won the toss and put Punjab in, considering that George Bailey’s side had only chased so far in this IPL and had comfortably won both matches. So back to Karn, whose drifting leggies had cost just eight runs in his previous two overs. The first ball of his third cost one – a misfired Maxwell slog didn’t get its purchase. Then, a Cheteshwar Pujara leg bye put Maxwell back on strike.
Maxwell got his six, his first one this innings, from the third ball. And of the fourth, he was put down by countryman and one of the safest pair of hands in the Hyderabad camp, David Warner. Instead of getting under the ball with his fingers pointing upwards, as the Aussies do, Warner attempted to pouch the catch with cupped hands, like the Indians do. He dropped it; Maxwell laughed his way to another 95 (just like against Chennai), off 43 balls (ditto against Chennai).
That, however, wasn’t the last of the drama in the 10th over. Of the last ball, Pujara stepped down the track and clubbed Karn towards the long-on fence, where Darren Sammy was positioned. On any other day and perhaps even in his sleep, Sammy would have caught the ball somewhere near his belly button.
Only today, the West Indian curiously leapt out of the way and let the ball hit the hoarding on the bounce. Some believed that the low lying floodlights had come in Sammy’s eyes. Others felt it could have been a strategic ‘drop’ to allow the ever-struggling-to-come-to-terms-with-T20s Pujara to neutralise Maxwell’s effect.
Alas, it wasn’t to be. Very next over, Sammy (the irony!) had Pujara caught at the deep midwicket ropes by Venugopal Rao. Coming off a 38-ball unbeaten 40 (SR 105.26) in the previous match, the KXIP opener had stepped it up to a 32-ball 35 (SR 109.37).
Pujara’s nicely-timed wicket in the 11th over and the introduction of the violent David Miller should’ve ideally have been the turning point for KXIP in this match. Only, they ‘dismissed’ Maxwell off a Sammy no ball when he was on 62 in the 15th over – three overs after he took 11 runs off Irfan Pathan, two overs after he hit Amit Mishra for three straight sixes and an over after he had pounded Karn for 15 more runs. Promptly after Maxwell was called back, Sammy went for 10 runs from his last two balls of the over.
In sole lead
The Aussie now has the most runs (297), most fifties (3), most nineties (2) and most sixes (17). This after three matches. While it is a mystery how the century has remained elusive so far, KXIP won’t be complaining as long as they continue to post scores and victories (193 and 72 runs respectively on Tuesday) like they have been consistently doing.
For a team with a top score of 178 (against Chennai last season), SRH needed a miracle to do something they’ve never done in their season-and-a-bit history. To chase down 194, their top-order (especially Warner and the explosive Aaron Finch) needed to fire. One Laxmipathy Balaji over took care of that.
Bowling the fifth over of the chase, the veteran pacer cleaned up Finch’s furniture with an angled third ball and had Warner caught at point two balls later. Little wonder then that by the end of the 15th over, SRH had managed to score just one run more than Maxwell for the loss of seven wickets.