In what can only be described as an M-phatic win M-powered by Kings XI Punjab’s two Ms – Maxwell and Miller – yet another gigantic target was scaled with precision. After the Rajasthan Royals posted 191 for five, KXIP got over the line with seven wickets in hand and eight balls to spare, thanks to a barrage of fours and sixes inflicted initially by Glenn Maxwell and then by David Miller – who is arguably one of the best finishers in the IPL.
George Bailey chose to field first earlier in the evening, after winning the toss. Taking strike on a batsman-friendly Sharjah track, the RR openers – Ajinkya Rahane and Abhishek Nayar – came out all guns blazing. Just when it seemed as though the pair was set to dominate the KXIP bowlers, Rahane (13) had to return to the dugout following an unfortunate run-out. However, with Sanju Samson for company, Nayar continued the onslaught, and the duo helped their team to 54 for one at the end of the six-over powerplay.
But soon thereafter, Nayar (23) got out off the bowling of Murali Kartik, who trapped him leg-before. The RR skipper, Shane Watson, then came to the middle at a point when his team needed him to capitalise on a quick start. The big Australian did just that. Punishing spinners and pacers alike, Watson powered the Royals innings with regular boundaries – including five fours and three sixes. Even Samson joined his captain in the blitzkrieg.
Watson (50) then brought up his half-century in grand style, but was dismissed soon after; he was clean bowled off the bowling of Akshar Patel, who gave KXIP a much-needed breather at a point when the scorecard read 128 for three in 13.1 overs. Suart Binny (12) then departed a couple of overs later. However, Samson’s (50) big-hitting kept the run-rate over the nine-an-over mark. The young batsman, who struck four sixes, even brought up his 50 with a big hit down the ground. But he perished soon after when Parvinder Awana knocked over his stumps.
At that stage, RR were on 159 for five in 16.5 overs, with the big-hitting James Faulkner (8) joining his fellow countryman, Steve Smith (27*), in the middle. The duo ensured RR posted a massive total, thanks to their unbroken 32-run stand. The Royals ended their 20-over quota at 191 for five. Meanwhile, for KXIP, Patel was the pick of the bowlers as he was the only one to concede less than six-an-over while picking up Watson’s wicket.
Faced with yet another mountainous target, KXIP needed a big start up front. However, that was not to be as Virender Sehwag (2) got out in the second over of the innings off Dhawal Kulkarni. Wriddhiman Saha (2), the next man in, also did not last long and fell prey to Faulkner.
For the second match in a row, KXIP needed Glenn Maxwell to do what he does best – torment opposition bowlers. And much to their delight, the Australian batsman came to the party yet again. With Cheteshwar Pujara sedately holding one end, Maxwell went after the RR bowlers.
There wasn’t a dull moment while he was at the crease. From perfectly executed pull shots and drives to powerful reverse-sweeps, Maxwell played an array of strokes that were as pleasing to watch as they were effective.
In a 116-run partnership with Pujara (40*), Maxwell accounted for an astounding 89 runs, out of which 68 came off hits to and over the fence (eight fours and six maximums). The RR bowlers had no answer or strategy to counter this one-of-a-kind attack. Unfortunately for Maxwell (89), his 45-ball knock came to an end in the 14th over, when he fell to Kane Richardson while going for another big one. But in the process, he did climb atop the Pepsi IPL 2014 run-scorers list, thereby staking his claim on the coveted Orange Cap.
KXIP were still 66 runs adrift of another famous run-chase with 37 balls to go. Much to their relief, they had yet another chase specialist – David Miller – taking strike up next. The South African batsman, who has pulled off some of the most improbable chases for KXIP in the past, picked up where Maxwell had left off. Striking six after six – including four consecutive big hits off Kulkarni in the 18th over – he decisively tilted the game in KXIP’s favour. Miller, rightfully, struck the winning blow, which was a six – his sixth of the innings – and scripted yet another top-notch finish for his team.
Thanks to the heroics of the two Ms KXIP got home with seven wickets in hand and eight balls to spare. In the process Miller (51*), who faced 19 balls, also scored the second-fastest fifty in IPL history.
Man of the Match: Glenn Maxwell for his game-changing innings of 89 off 45 balls