Kings XI Punjab have never been a great starter in the IPL. In fact, till Sunday, they had never won their first game of the season. But, they were at their very best at the Sahara Stadium in Pune against Pune Warriors. Punjab’s performance was particularly brilliant with the ball, but it must also be said that their fielding effort was among the best even seen in an IPL encounter. As a result of the same, Pune never recovered from the early jolts they were delivered and floundered to a rather embarrassing loss.
It was a near-perfect effort from Punjab, with all the bowlers chipping in with some contribution or the other. Praveen Kumar gave his team the much desired early breakthrough, dismissing Manish Pandey in the very first over. Pandey is capable of playing match-turning knocks, but he hasn’t done the same for a while now, and that will trouble Pune. Once the hosts lost Pandey early, they needed a couple of the other batsmen to step up, but Punjab never allowed them to do so, picking up wickets at will.
Tirumalasetti Suman, who was replacing the injured Yuvraj Singh, could not make any kind of an impression. Azhar Mahmood once again showed his value to the team, sending back Suman cheaply. To compound Pune’s woes, Punjab’s exceptional fielding exhibition came to the fore. While Marlon Samuels was run out off a fantastic throw from Mandeep Singh, the dangerous Ross Taylor was caught in a sensational manner by Gurkeerat Singh, with a full length dive, and managing to hold on to the ball even are crashing down to the ground. In T20 cricket such things make a significant difference, and as a result Pune’s innings kept going from bad to worse.
Pune’s woes were exemplified from the fact that only four batsmen got in double figures, but only one of them got past 20. What then needed was for at least of those batsmen to carry on to register a substantial score. That never happened with Abhishek Nayar’s 25 not out being the highest. It was a highly disappoint batting performance from Pune without doubt, one that would serve as a harsh wake-up call to their think-tank. At the same time, Punjab must be credited for their all-round brilliance. Each and every one of their bowlers was among the wickets and, at the same time, economical.
Once Pune were restricted to under 100, only an unbelievably miserable performance could have stopped them from winning the clash. Skipper Adam Gilchrist set the tone with a couple of big hits, and even though he fell soon after, there was never any pressure on the Punjab batsmen. Mandeep Singh batted very well, and made things look rather easy out in the middle, but it was debutant Manan Vohra, who ended as the best batsman of the game from either side. Vohra batted with the ease of a T20 veteran, and found the boundaries at will, to kill any faint hopes of a Pune win.
Turning point of the game: Robin Uthappa’s dismissal in the 9th over. Pune had lost three wickets early, but Uthappa was looking set on 19 when he fell to Piyush Chawla to leave the side reeling at 33 for 4.
--By A Cricket Analyst