Chasing a 133-run target seems easy business on most days in the Indian Premier League (IPL). Kings XI Punjab must have thought the same against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Thursday, especially with Chris Gayle and KL Rahul scoring 55 runs in the first eight overs.
But what happened after that has left King XI’s middle order with serious questions. As Rahul was scalped by Rashid Khan and Gayle got out to Basil Thampi, the scorecard read 57/2, with Kings XI needing 76 in little over 11 overs.
The next eight batsmen could, however, manage just 62 runs as Kings XI slumped to a 13-run loss. Kings XI captain Ravichandran Ashwin, while giving credit to Sunrisers bowlers, said that the batsmen played unnecessarily risky shots.
“These things (batting collapse) happen in this kind of a tournament and Sunrisers Hyderabad’s bowling made the difference. We lost wickets throughout the middle (overs) and I thought we kept attacking a little too much and lost few wickets,” he said after the match.
Indeed, apart from KL Rahul and Karun Nair, who got out to two superb deliveries from Rashid Khan, all other fell to rash shots. It also shifts focus to the roles Gayle and Rahul have played in Kings XI line-up.
While Rahul is their top-scorer (268 runs in seven matches), the West Indies player has contributed 252 runs in just four games. Apart from the duo, Karun Nair is the only batsman to show some fight (186 in seven matches). If these three are taken out, none of the other Kings XI batsmen have a respectable tally – none have more than 105.
After the loss, Ashwin hoped that Kings XI’s middle-order batsmen will come good at an opportune time.
“We do have finishers but they are not coming off. You won’t get all the puzzles solved at once. Hopefully, some of the people whom we have trusted will come good at the right time. That’s how you get going. They are quality players,” he said.
Apart from the poor show by the middle-order, Ashwin also blamed his team’s poor fielding. Manish Pandey, who top-scored for Sunrisers with a 51-ball 54, was dropped thrice, including once by Ashwin himself.
“I think we fielded pretty badly. We dropped way too many catches for a 20-over game. At the end it cost us. If we had held at least a couple of those catches, we might have given Sunrisers 20-30 runs less. Having said that we must also acknowledge that it is a long tournament and it is important to keep the heads up. You do have bad days,” he said.
However, one positive for Kings XI was Ankit Rajpoot’s haul of 5/14. His numbers were the best by any Indian uncapped player in IPL and the second-best by any Indian pacer, after Ishant Sharma’s 5/12 (for Deccan Chargers against Kochi Tuskers Kerala in 2011).
“He has been bowling pretty well. He is tall, a bit nippy and can swing the ball around. I though he hit good length in the first six overs while the wicket held a bit. Not every day you get five wickets in T20. It was a good job,” Ashwin said.