Pune Warriors player Manish Pandey gets bowled by Kings XI's Praveen Kumar. (BCCI)
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PUNE: A disciplined all-round bowling performance from Kings XI Punjab bowlers backed up by a solid fielding effort including an outstanding catch laid the foundation for the batsmen to easily chase down the sub-par target of 100 as the visitors eased to an eight wicket win with 46 deliveries remaining over Pune Warriors at Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium today.
Warriors, who have now lost their first two matches in IPL-6, had suffered a blow before the toss itself as Yuvraj Singh was ruled out with a back strain.
The pitch was low and slow; and while the Warriors' batsmen struggled, Kings XI's batsmen appeared to be playing on a different track as they took the attack to the hosts' bowlers in the easy run chase.
As impressive as a display it was by the Kings XI attack, the most memorable moment of the match came courtesy Gurkeerat Singh who took an absolute blinder to get rid of Ross Taylor with Praveen Kumar being the benefiting bowler. Taylor had swung the delivery off his pads and the ball looked headed for the boundary but Gurkeerat ran quickly to his right and dived full length to complete a spectacular catch even as the Warriors batsman looked on in disbelief.
The slow nature of the track proved to be too much for Warriors' batsmen to deal with as they put in another insipid batting display en route to struggling to 99 for 9. In stark contrast, captain Adam Gilchrist got Kings XI's chase off to a flier as he smashed a six and two boundaries in the first over to set the tone for his team. Warriors' captain dismissed Gilchrist soon after, but Mandeep Singh and India U-19 batsman Manan Vohra, on his IPL debut, attacked the hosts' bowlers and hit boundaries almost at will to dash any hopes Pune had of stealing an unlikely win and dropped catches didn't help their cause either.
Mandeep Singh (31) was dismissed with Kings XI close to victory, but Vohra, who remained unbeaten on 43* (28 balls, 7x4), impressed on his debut and will look to carry this form into his team's remaining matches. The match had a comical end when Marsh had David Hussey caught with the scores level, but replays showed he had overstepped and it was the cue for Kings XI to celebrate a comprehensive win.
The numbers tell their own story and it doesn't make happy reading for a Pune Warriors fan - 64 dot balls; Abhishek Nayar (25*) was the highest scorer and only batsman to get into the 20s and only 10 boundaries and a six were hit over the course of the innings. The quintet of Kumar, Ryan Harris, Azhar Mahmood, Parvinder Awana and Piyush Chawla deserve all the plaudits that come their way as they put a noose around the Warriors' batsmen and squeezed the life. out of them as they took full advantage of the
helpful conditions and mixed up their deliveries well even as they were ably assisted by the Warriors' batsmen lack of will and determination to grind it out.
Mathews elected to bat first and the hosts had a nightmarish start when Manish Pandey inside edged a Kumar length delivery on to his stumps without troubling the scorers in the first over. This was Pandey's eighth duck in the IPL - the most by any batsman in the tournament's history. T Suman, who replaced Yuvraj, didn't last too long either and neither did Marlon Samuels and Mathews as Warriors struggled their way to 38 for 5 at the half-way mark. Chawla missed a golden chance to run out Robin Uthappa (19) in the third over of Warriors' innings but made amends by clean bowling him in the ninth over. Chawla also improved in the field and was instrumental in running out Samuels and Rahul Sharma.
Marsh tried to counter-attack and give some impetus to Warriors' faltering innings with his 8-ball 15 as he hit Kumar for a six and boundary in the 16th over, but that was as good as it got for the hosts as he was clean bowled by Harris in the next over; and the rest of the innings followed the earlier script with Kings XI's bowlers dominating proceedings again.
As things stand, this looks to be another long and unsuccessful season for the Mathews-led Warriors, who look like favourites to get the wooden spoon based on their lacklustre displays in the first two matches. The good news though is that things can only improve from this insipid performance against Kings XI.