Alagappan Muthu (ESPNcricinfo)
The Kings XI Punjab production line of batsmen was under threat of being shortcircuited but Akshar Patel strode in at No. 8 and clobbered 20 runs off the penultimate over to script a second successive victory in Mohali.
The situation had not been too dire, but that cameo erased all doubts of the outcome of the match. Barbados Tridents, as their coach Desmond Haynes said, fought fire with fire when they amassed 174, but their bowling in the death could not keep to their disciplines.
Things had looked promising for Tridents when they got rid of Virender Sehwag and Glenn Maxwell in the space of 12 balls. Losing that much batting muscle with eight overs left and a run-rate climbing towards nine an over is never healthy. Unless you are Kings XI.
David Miller played an innings that didn’t quite exemplify his ‘in the arc out of the park’ philosophy. He brushed past a few nervous moments against spin when Jeevan Mendis benefited from uncertain bounce. His timing was inconsistent, but found the boundary when needed most. Ashley Nurse was cracked for a six off the final ball of the 17th over. The equation reduced to 34 off 18. The last ball of the next one hurtled to the midwicket boundary to take it down to 25 off 12. And then Akshar’s carnage began.
Ravi Rampaul was belted to long-on, lofted over cover and hooked over the square-leg boundary. In between there was an outside edge to the third man boundary to add to the excitement. Rampaul, Tridents’ most experienced bowler, had leaked 50 off his four overs. Akshar, the youngest player of the Kings XI side, bashed 23 off only nine balls.
Rayad Emrit, the Tridents captain, had said he would have taken an equation of 20-odd in the final two overs. But his bowlers did not log enough time searching for the blockhole. The only potent threat was the legspinner Mendis, who got alarming turn on occasion and enjoyed low bounce on others to cede only 18 runs for two key wickets: Sehwag who had fuelled a strong Kings XI start and George Bailey, the captain. Kings XI needed 47 off the final four overs. They got 50 off 3.4.
Bowling had seemed Tridents’ strength coming into the tournament after losing Shoaib Malik, Dwayne Smith and Kieron Pollard. But this game turned that impression topsy-turvy.
Dilshan Munaweera, the Sri Lanka batsman, hammered 50 of his team’s 61 during the Powerplay. There were slugs down the ground, scoops behind the wicket, drills over and through cover to keep up a frenetic pace. He wasn’t able to sustain it past the Powerplay but the foundation had been laid.
Raymon Reifer, the Combined Campuses and Colleges batsman, bashed an unbeaten 60 off 42 balls. He used his feet well to find his power, coming down the track before muscling the ball. He carted 40 from 26 balls off the spinners, who assisted his strokeplay by resorting to darts whenever they were attacked.
Kings XI’s bowling was the weaker link, but they could lay claim to being caught by surprise – Munaweera’s T20 strike rate before this game was 116. Reifer has only played six games across two seasons of CPL. Tridents though knew who they had at the crease and their dug out was buzzing throughout their batting innings. It wasn’t a few hours on.