Sidharth Monga (ESPNcricinfo)
Lightning has struck twice. After they made mockery of a 200-plus chase in their first match, Kings XI Punjab captain George Bailey said this was not going to happen every day, and that his bowlers needed to turn up. The bowlers failed to turn up again, but Glenn Maxwell and David Miller made light of another massive chase. The numbers there were staggering: between them Maxwell and Miller smashed 140 off 64 balls, smoked 12 sixes and reverse-hit and caressed eight fours. What made it better was that this came against the best defenders in the IPL: this was the first time Rajasthan Royals lost after posting 190 or more.
Kings XI had got off to a sluggish start, their promotion of Wriddhiman Saha had backfired, and the asking rate was 10.5, to be maintained over 17 overs, when Maxwell walked. The ask would cross two a ball as soon as in the 10th over, and a struggling – by T20 standards – Cheteshwar Pujara would make it more difficult for Kings XI. Maxwell, though, turned it into a ‘me’ v ‘them’, farmed the strike to the tune of 45 balls to Pujara’s 23 in the partnership between them, and ran away with the game with 89 off 45.
The innings was full of incredible hitting, preying on one considerably shorter side boundary and the short straight ones. He began by going after Kane Richardson in the fifth over, moments after Richardson had failed to latch onto an incredibly difficult return catch to his right. The first ball of the next over he smacked Pravin Tambe over square leg, and then eliminated – for the time being – the other big threat, James Faulkner. It began with the first ball of the over again as he flicked a low full toss for six, but he stunned Faulkner with the fifth ball of that seventh over. Faulkner had every reason to believe he had done Maxwell in with a slower bouncer, but from almost halfway down the pitch Faulkner adjusted and upper-cut him for six.
Tambe and Rajat Bhatia pulled things back with their non-turning legrollers, and not much pace to work with. The asking rate shot past 12, and Bhatia began the 11th over with fielders deep on the leg side, and three men behind and around point in the circle. This is when Maxwell in the Mirror made his appearance.
Two reverse-sweeps either side of short third man and one reverse-flick over cover later, Maxwell had gone well past his fifty, and had also brought the asking rate back under control. The next over from Dhawal Kulkarni had a similarly strong leg-side field, and Maxwell produced his touch play again. One upper-cut, one flick, and two gentle pushes past the man at cover brought him 16 runs. And when Maxwell manhandled Bhatia for two sixes in the next over, time had come for Royals to go back to the big guns.
On came Richardson, too much elevation got Maxwell, another century was missed, and Rajasthan were breathing again. They had little clue they were about to jump from the frying pan into the fire, the fire of Miller’s 51 off 19. Miller came in with 66 required off 36, which became 60 off 30 with a canny Stuart Binny over, and three quiet deliveries from Tambe compounded it even further, but now Miller began to pick his deliveries to hit. Even though Tambe bowled the next ball short, Miller smashed him over long-off for six. Pujara sort of took care of the next over with a four and three, and now Kings XI needed 37 from the last three.
Richardson and Faulkner had one each left. Royals went to Kulkarni for the third. They could have gone to Binny, who had cut off all pace, and had conceded just four in his only over. They could have kept Kulkarni back for later, and given him a slightly softer scenario if Faulkner had bowled the 18th and got the asking rate even higher. But these decisions have to be made fast, and Kulkarni it was. Kulkarni’s idea was right: he was going full, he was going low, but Miller was murderous. Kulkarni didn’t miss his yorkers by much, but Miller hit him for four merciless sixes to end the contest then and there.
Bailey will be pleased he has been proven wrong that such chases don’t come about every day, but he will want more from his bowlers and fielders. The bowling was listless, they dropped two catches too, and Sanju Samson and Shane Watson feasted on them. Mitchell Johnson, the leader of the attack, looked dull again, bowling just the one bouncer, with which incidentally he hit the batsman. Looking back, they will think that they had triumphed in not letting them score big fifties, but Bailey is right, these chases don’t happen every day. Except when Maxwell and Miller are at their best.