Everything finally fell into place for Kings XI Punjab as the hosts got their first points from their third game in the ninth season of the IPL with a resounding six-wicket win over Rising Pune Supergiants here on Sunday.
In a match that was expected to be a crunch game for both sides, only one seemed to be playing to win. KXIP’s biggest strength, its foreign recruits, came good when needed after the initial impetus from M. Vijay and Manan Vohra set up the perfect platform for an easy win.
Batting is KXIP’s strength and, chasing a moderate target of 153, the 97-run opening partnership between Vijay and Vohra was a display of control and dominance.
The duo dealt with pace and spin with equal ease, slamming boundaries at will. Everything that RPS skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni threw at them was punished.
Left-arm spinner Ankit Sharma, playing his first game, went for 13 runs in his first over though he finally did get the breakthrough by dismissing Vohra leg-before.
The fifth over saw Vohra slam Ishant Sharma for three consecutive fours, on either side of the pitch around the field, each more powerful than the previous one.
He repeated the feat with Thisara Perera in the 11th, this time preferring to stick to the off side, and racing to his half century. Vijay, at the other end, was happy trading in sixes before getting his own 50.
Three wickets for M. Ashwin — the young leg-spinner is fast becoming Dhoni’s go-to bowler for wickets — brought the visitors back into the game.
Till the 15th over, the teams were level but unlike in the previous matches, Glenn Maxwell stepped up to the plate and it paid off. He swatted the RPS bowling to all corners, with 24 of his 32 runs coming in fours and sixes, finishing off with a four through cover.
Earlier, RPS neither got the kind of start it was looking for nor did it accelerate the way it would have wanted in the middle.
Ajinkya Rahane went early, dragging an inside edge from Sandeep Sharma on to his leg stump in the third over, but with the kind of line-up RPS has, that should not have had an impact on the scoring rate.
But it did, and, barring a brief cameo by Steve Smith who scored a 26-ball 34, the RPS middle-order found no traction on a dry pitch.
It speaks a lot about RPS’s batting that not a single six was scored in 20 overs.
Faf du Plessis held one end up, getting boundaries at regular intervals, but there was no back-up and, strangely enough, no urgency in the team’s scoring. When it finally showed some — in the final over of the innings — it lost three wickets for just three runs, du Plessis and Dhoni perishing off successive balls going for the big hits.
Smith admitted later on that the team fell 20-25 runs short and that its bowling had not worked so far.
That would be an understatement and Dhoni would do well to rework his bowling options soon.
RPS 152/7 (20.0 Ovs)
KXIP 153/4 (18.4 Ovs)
Kings XI Punjab won by 6 wkts
PLAYER OF THE MATCH:- Manan Vohra