Rahul stars in KXIP’s stuttering win

Kings XI Punjab got back to winning ways after beating the Sunrisers Hyderabad by six wickets in Mohali on Monday (April 8). The synopsis might suggest the hosts ran away with a comfortable victory, but they were made to earn this one on a pitch that was not always a friend to the batsmen. What had looked like a routine chase, ended up being a nail biting thriller that was ended by KL Rahul stealing two off the penultimate ball.

Batting first, David Warner trudged his way to only 70 despite batting through the innings. Thanks to his knock and Deepak Hooda’s whirlwind 3-ball 14, SRH managed a competetive 150 in the board. For most part of KXIP’s innings, the chase looked a mere formality. KL Rahul batted with great purpose, notching up a fine fifty, while Mayank Agarwal brought up his own later to anchor the innings. Late wickets threatened to upset KXIP as they slumped to 140/4, needing 11 off the final over to be bowled by Mohammad Nabi. Curran picked up two doubles off the first two balls, before Rahul’s boundary brought the equation down to 2 off 2. A Warner misfield at long on allowed KXIP to get the double needed for victory as Mohali heaved a massive sigh of relief.

Only 150 despite David Warner batting through?

Well, yes. But it certainly wasn’t the Warner we are all used to seeing. This version certainly looked like him, but batted like he was unsure of the kind of maniacal things the willow in his hand was capable of doing. The left-hander may have made 70, but it was easily one of his toughest innings. Not that the pitch was a monster; Warner’s struggles stemmed more from how well the KXIP bowlers bowled to him.

At the toss, Ashwin had remarked how Bairstow and Warner were both quality batsmen, but still were susceptible to good balls. His team’s bowling performance showed exactly what their captain meant. Warner strengths were hardly fed. He wasn’t allowed any room or a lot of pace. The spinners regularly bowled into his body, tying up his favourite shots square of the wicket. It meant Warner fell behind the pace rather quickly. He was four off 15 balls when he eventually hit his first boundary of the innings. But KXIP would quickly revert to the plans that worked well for them.

Jonny Bairstow fell to Mujeeb rather early, and the incoming Vijay Shankar, too, found the going tough as the hosts kept a tight leash on proceedings. They managed to get only 50 off their first 10 overs, despite losing only 1 wicket in the bargain.

How did the hosts fare with the bat?

Quite in contrast. Just like with the ball, the batting plans were perfectly laid out and neatly executed. Chris Gayle came out swinging, hitting a four and six before hitting Rashid Khan to Deepak Hooda at long on. But KXIP plan B was solid.

Each of the next powerplay overs brought a boundary as KXIP ensured they did not fall too far behind the asking rate. KL Rahul carried the innings from there. He picked up boundaries at regular intervals, before going big against Siddharth Kaul and hitting him for a four and a six and two fours of Mohammad Nabi. He brought up his fifty off just 34 deliveries, making up for the more sedate Mayank Agarwal at the other end.

When Rahul got to his fifty, KXIP were in a comfortable, if not winning, position. They needed 49 more to win off 42 balls. They opted to see off the dangerous Rashid Khan, who finished with 20-1 in his four overs, and then apply pressure on the other bowlers. Yusuf Pathan then put down Agarwal as KXIP further strengthened their position.

Mayank rose anew after his lease of life. He welcomed Kaul back into the attack by lofting him down the ground for six and bring the required run rate to around six and a half. He brought up his fifty in the same over before adding another another boundary to put his side in control.

How did it get so close then?

If it wasn’t for a certain Deepak Hooda, the hosts would have cantered to a win rather than having to sweat it out for one. The right-armer faced just 3 deliveries in his innings, which incidently were also the last three deliveries off SRH’s innings. He faced off against Mohammed Shami and smashed the India pacer for two fours and a six. From a total of 136 off 19.3, SRH had raced to 150 and walked off with more optimisim. Then when Hooda ran across from long on to take a superb catch to dismiss Chris Gayle, SRH fancied their chance. Rahul and Mayank had to slowly rebuild their innings. The pair planned their assault superbly, but there was to be another twist, and again Hooda was involved.

KXIP lost the wickets of Mayank, David Miller and Mandeep Singh, the catches of the last two taken by Hooda, to suddenly find themselves reaching for a defeat from the jaws of victory. Thankfully for them, KL Rahul was still there to finish the job off.

What does this do to the table?

Make it look like a much more competetive one, for sure. There are now three teams atop the table with eight points, and three others close on their heels with 6. The two Royals, Bangalore and Rajasthan, have some catching up to do.

Where next for the teams?

KXIP host a resurgent Mumbai Indians on Wednesday, with both teams hoping to carry their winning momentum forward while SRH will bank on home comforts when they host Delhi Capitals after a five day break.

Brief scores: Sunrisers Hyderabad 150/4 in 20 overs (David Warner 70*, Vijay Shankar 26; Ravichandran Ashwin 1-30) lost to Kings XI Punjab 151/4 in 19.5 overs (KL Rahul 71*, Mayank Agarwal 55; Sandeep Sharma 2-21) by six wickets

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