RAJKOT: A change of guard in Kings XI Punjab’s camp brought in the much-awaited change in their fortunes. Facing a daunting task against table-toppers Gujarat Lions in their den, Kings XI took the bull by its horn with a superb collective effort which saw them topple the leaders by 23 runs at the Saurashtra Cricket Association ground on Sunday.
Chasing a target of 155, Lions’ top and middle-order collapsed to some superb Punjab bowling, led by left-arm spinner Axar Patel. James Faulkner did take the fight to the opposition camp late in the innings but his 32 was not enough.
While this was KXIP’s only the second win off seven matches, this must have infused new life into their campaign. If it was newly-appointed skipper Murli Vijay’s brilliance with the bat in the first half of the innings that took Punjab to a respectable total of 154, then Axar’s brilliant effort (421), which included a hat-trick, that brought the Lions down to their knees.
Nadiad boy Axar made the opposition batsmen dance to his tunes and accounted for the menacing opener Dwayne Smith in the seventh over. It was just the beginning to a dream spell as Patel took his first hat-trick in the IPL by picking the wickets of Dinesh Kartik, Dwayne Bravo off last two balls of the 7th over and Ravindra Jadeja off the first ball of the 11th over to completely wreck the middle-order.
It was only the second hat-trick by a KXIP bowler. Incidentally, on the same day back in 2009, Yuvraj Singh, then donning Punjab colours, had claimed a hat-trick against Bangalore.
Patel’s performance overshadowed the efforts of Mohit Sharma who was responsible for starting Lions’ downfall by cleaning up Brendon McCullam and Suresh Raina’s stumps upfront. None apart from all-rounder Faulkner could put up a fight with the hosts reaching just 131for nine in their 20 overs.
Earlier, KXIP skipper Vijay demonstrated he meant business as soon as his team was invited to bat first by the hosts. The skipper combined well with his opening partner Marcus Stoinis and together the duo put on 59 runs in the Powerplay. However, the two were soon separated by local boy Ravindra Jadeja who foxed Stoinis.
It was followed by a middle-order col lapse when the Kings plunged from 65 for one in the seventh over to 73 for four by the ninth.
The wrecker-in-chief was the mystery chinaman bowler Shivil Kaushik (320) who removed two dangerous Aussies – Shaun Marsh and Glenn Maxwell off consecutive deliveries in the eighth over. Gurkeerat Singh Mann was run out in the very next over to leave the team in deep trouble.
Vijay, meanwhile, continued his good work to register his second fifty in this IPL before he was caught in the spin web of Kaushik for 55, his highest this season. His predecessor, David Miller also made his highest so far this year – 31. However, once the South African was back in the hut in the 18th over, the tail was cleaned up by specialist death bowlers Praveen Kumar (2-25) and Dwayne Bravo (2-33).
While the hosts fielded the same playing XI as in their last game, the visitors made four changes: Gurkeerat Singh in for Manan Vohra, Cariappa got his first match for Kings XI, Stoinis replaced Mitchell Johnson and Saha came in as well.