Luke Wright went from hero to villain in the space of 100 minutes. His cameo of 34 off 10 balls helped Pune Warriors post 185, but in the face of an assault from David Miller and sensible support from Mandeep Singh, Wright blinked and failed to defend 15 in the last over. Miller finished it off with two lethal sixes, but don’t forget how Mandeep kept running back to the danger end to keep Miller on strike.
Both stayed unbeaten, Miller on 80 off 41 and Mandeep on 77 off 58. Mandeep’s was the first fifty for any Kings XI Punjab batsman this IPL.
The fielding all around was poor, but the batting and bowling towards the end were high quality under pressure, in sharp contrast to some of the inexplicable thrillers earlier in the tournament. Despite a patchy appearance, this was a true surface where the ball came on, and it made for good stroke-play. Both Mandeep and Miller needed that in abundance after Kings XI had been 5 for 2 in the chase of 186, a result of shoddy fielding and bowling from Kings XI.
Adam Gilchrist dropped a sitter from Warriors’ third captain of the season, Aaron Finch, and saw him add 63 more off 38. Misfields from Kings XI punctuated the rest of the innings, and they added length bowling in the end to their list of mistakes. First Yuvraj Singh, and then, sensationally, Wright took full toll of that. Wright hit the first six balls he faced for fours. Five of them were poorly pitched, and the sixth, a yorker, poorly fielded.
Gilchrist’s horror day continued when he edged a cut in the first over. Ajantha Mendis, another one of Warriors’ inclusions, worked immediately as he got an lbw verdict against Azhar Mahmood with the first ball he bowled. However, Mandeep and Manan Vohra, two of the Kings XI’s young Indian batsmen, started brightly, and the way they timed the ball, you knew it wasn’t going to be a stroll for Warriors.
Yuvraj came on to break that partnership, and Miller walked in with close to 10 an over required for a duration of more than 13 overs. They did it the difficult way. No six sixes or six fours, but through a boundary every over, and some hard running between the wickets. Seven continuous overs starting with the 10th had least a boundary; only one of them went for two. The turnaround began with Miller hitting Yuvraj over long-on in the 10th over, and was at its most destructive when Miller hit Yuvraj’s replacement, Mendis, for six and four in the 12th.
That boundary streak ended in the 17th over when Ashok Dinda nearly got six yorkers in. After only eight runs – that too thanks to the running – came off it, the asking rate finally crossed 12. With 37 required, Finch took the risk, and asked Bhuvneshwar Kumar to bowl his last over. Bhuvneshwar responded superbly. He did almost everything right, followed the batsmen when they moved in the crease, got the yorkers in, kept it down to just four off the first five balls.
Then misfortune struck. Mandeep edged the last ball through third man for four. Still, the last two overs had swung the game in Warriors’ favour, and 29 were required off the last two. Mandeep was tiring, and had lost all his timing. It was going to be down to Miller now. The pressure was high, and the bowling had been good. Just then, though, Dinda missed his yorker twice in a row, and Miller took that small window of opportunity and placed both the full tosses for fours.
Dinda came back well, but let himself down by not collecting a throw that would have run Miller out by a long distance. It was still Warriors’ game to lose with 18 required off seven balls. And how they lost it.
Dinda finished his over off well, but a misfield from Rahul Sharma at third man not only allowed Kings XI a bonus run, but kept Miller on strike for the start of the final over. All his cards played out, Finch had to go back to Wright, who got away with a short ball first up, and bowled a good yorker to follow. Fourteen off four.
The field was now set for the wide yorker, but Wright got it wrong. He bowled a full bunger in Miller’s swinging range, and once again Miller took that opportunity with a six over long-off. Wright came back with a low full toss, which Miller couldn’t get under. Single. Think again. Mandeep turned that certain one into two, and snatched away whatever little advantage the bowling side might have had.
With six required off two, Wright needed to get Miller off strike, but he bowled another full toss, which Miller send crashing over long-off again.
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