Courtesy of yet another brilliant innings from Hashim Amla and effective cameos by Maxwell in the middle order and later by Axar Patel in the final stages, Kings XI Punjab posted a formidable total of 188 against Gujarat Lions.
Featuring a strong batting line up and having the confidence of chasing a similar total in the previous game, the chase was certainly on for Gujarat Lions.
However, Sandeep Sharma got rid of Brenden McCullum, Lions’ highest scorer of this season in the first over and then sent back Aaron Finch in the sixth over to reduce Lions to 46 for 2 inside the powerplay overs.
But from the other end, Suresh Raina exploited the fielding restrictions and gathered quick runs to keep the home team alive in the chase. He once again looked solid and it seemed that the Gujarat skipper would repeat his previous match heroics where he steered his side home with a splendid 84.
For the third wicket, the southpaw stitched a decent partnership with Dinesh Karthik and it threatened to take the game away from Punjab. And then Maxwell had no option but to turn to his ace bowling weapon, Axar Patel.
Maxwell magic undoes Raina’s power
In the ninth over of the innings, Axar Patel was introduced into the attack and Karthik struck a boundary off his first ball. For the next four balls, the duo of Raina and Karthik focused on rotating strike, running three singles to keep the pressure on the bowler.
And on the last ball, Axar made the mistake and bowled a short delivery. For Raina, who favours the mid-wicket region, it was a certain opportunity and he couldn’t prevent himself from going for the big heave in the cow corner.
His placement was right but the Lions captain couldn’t get the timing perfect and the ball was in the air for a while. Maxwell, who was stationed at deep mid-wicket, showed excellent awareness and technique.
First, he positioned himself underneath the ball and kept a safe distance from the boundary rope. As the ball came closer to the Punjab skipper, he timed his jump to perfection and fetched the ball. The momentum pushed Maxwell backwards but standing ahead of the ropes helped him land inches short of the boundary line.
The highlight of Maxwell’s effort was the way he balanced himself after completing the catch and prevented himself from going over the boundary line. This piece of incredible fielding brought curtains Raina’s innings and it was a decisive blow for Lions.
Punjab consolidate after Raina’s fall
Raina’s wicket derailed Gujarat’s innings and exposed their lower middle order. Ravindra Jadeja and Dwayne Smith succumbed to the pressure of increasing run rate while the debutant Akash Nath was out on his very first ball.
The spin duo of Axar Patel and KC Cariappa tightened the noose and ensured that the required run-rate slipped away from Gujarat’s reach. Sandeep Sharma, in his second spell, got rid of Andrew Tye who played a cameo and with him, ended hopes of Lions.
However, Dinesh Karthik was sublime from the other end and although he failed to manufacture big shots in the death overs, his efforts helped the home team in reducing the margin of defeat. His valiant half-century at the end went in vein as young Natarajan kept his calm and delivered quiet overs in the final stages to complete a memorable victory by 26 runs for Punjab.
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