K.L. Rahul finally broke the shackles, as much in his mind as in his game, and led Kings XI Punjab to a clinical victory in its opening home game here on Saturday. The host won by eight wickets with eight balls to spare against Mumbai Indians at the I.S. Bindra Stadium.
Struggling for runs, form and confidence, Rahul first anchored the innings and then got into the act of guiding his team home with an unbeaten 71 — not his best-looking innings but certainly the most effective in a long time.
Setting the template
Chasing 177, after Mumbai Indians lost its way towards the end of its innings to manage an under-par 176 for seven, Chris Gayle set the template for the host. He took a while to get going but once he did, the ball kept getting lost in the stands.
Two back-to-back sixes off Mitchell McClenaghan in the third over — both in the last tier of seats beyond midwicket — was the beginning of his assault. Rahul, at the other end, was tentative and cautious but managed to fend off the early jitters.
Gayle, who fell trying to go for one big hit too many, finding Hardik Pandya at the long-on boundary in the first ball of spin he faced off Krunal Pandya. He had scored 40 of his team’s 53 runs by then.
Mayank Agarwal was not as fierce but equally destructive — his 43 runs in 21 deliveries more about timing and strokes than raw power. His 64-run partnership with Rahul turned the game firmly in KXIP’s favour in the middle overs. and reinforced his credentials as a player for all conditions.
By the time Mayank fell, snapped up by Krunal off his own bowling, Rahul had inched closer to his 50, which he duly reached with a four to fine leg off Lasith Malinga, and the weight seemed to have lifted off his shoulders.
The 15th over, from Hardik, proved the game-turner, Mumbai going for 19 runs. Rahul found his strokes and timing back and thereafter it was just a matter of time before KXIP romped home.
Earlier, Rohit Sharma and Quinton de Kock gave Mumbai the perfect start, racing to 50 in five overs before the former fell, struck on the pad off a Hardus Viljoen delivery that appeared to miss the leg stump. It was, but the captain did not see a review and it put the brakes on scoring.
Yuvraj Singh and de Kock tried to regain control, and succeeded partially, but walked back to the dugout within 10 balls of each other and it left Mumbai at least 20 runs short of what it would have wanted., despite a Hardik cameo.
MUMBAI INDIANS: Rohit Sharma lbw b Viljoen 32 (18b, 5×4), Quinton de Kock lbw b Shami 60 (39b, 6×4, 2×6), Suryakumar Yadav lbw M. Ashwin 11 (6b, 2×4), Yuvraj Singh c Shami b M. Ashwin 18 (22b, 2×4), Kieron Pollard c Mayank b Tye 7 (9b), Hardik Pandya c Mandeep b Shami 31 (19b, 3×4, 1×6), Krunal Pandya c M. Ashwin b Viljoen 10 (5b, 2×4), Mitchell McClenaghan (not out) 0 (2b), Mayank Markande (not out) 0 (0b); Extras (lb-3, w-4): 7; Total (for seven wkts. in 20 overs): 176.
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-51 (Rohit, 5.2 overs), 2-62 (Suryakumar, 6.2), 3-120 (de Kock, 12.6), 4-146 (Yuvraj, 14.4), 5-146 (Pollard, 17.1), 6-162 (Krunal, 18.3), 7-175 (Hardik, 19.4).
KINGS XI PUNJAB BOWLING: R. Ashwin 4-0-26-0, Shami 4-0-42-2, Viljoen 4-0-40-2, Tye 4-0-40-1, M. Ashwin 4-0-25-2.
KINGS XI PUNJAB: K.L. Rahul (not out) 71 (57b, 6×4, 1×6), Chris Gayle c Hardik b Krunal 40 (24b, 3×4, 4×6), Mayank Agarwal c & b Krunal 43 (21b, 4×4, 2×6), David Miller (not out) 15 (10b, 2×4); Extras (w-7, lb-1): 8; Total (for two wkts. in 18.4 overs): 177.
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-63 (Gayle, 7.2 overs), 2-117 (Mayank, 13.3).
MUMBAI INDIANS BOWLING: McClenaghan 4-0-35-0, Malinga 3-0-24-0, Bumrah 3.4-0-23-0, Hardik 3-0-39-0, Krunal 4-0-43-2, Markande 1-0-12-0.
Toss: Kings XI Punjab.
MoM: Mayank Agarwal.
KXIP won by eight wickets with 8 balls remaining.