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20th April 2014

Royals feel the heat in Sharjah

Maxwell & Miller steal the show for KXIP as they win their second match in Pepsi IPL against RR by 7 wickets

Rajasthan Royals: 1 Abhishek Nayar, 2 Ajinkya Rahane, 3 Sanju Samson (wk), 4 Shane Watson, 5 Stuart Binny, 6 Steve Smith, 7 Rajat Bhatia, 8 James Faulkner, 9 Kane Richardson, 10 Dhawal Kulkarni, 11 Pravin Tambe

Kings XI Punjab: 1 Cheteshwar Pujara, 2 Virender Sehwag, 3 Glenn Maxwell, 4 Akshar Patel, 5 David Miller, 6 George Bailey (capt.), 7 Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Murali Kartik, 10 Parvinder Awana, 11 L Balaji

KXIP won the toss and decided to field first on a bald shiny surface which could easily be termed as batsmen’s paradise. These teams prefer chasing, both registered wins in their first match chasing, and there was no surprise in the decision George Bailey made. Steve Smith made his Rajasthan Royals debut as fellow and veteran Australian Brad Hodge was unwell. Trusting his specialist batsmen, and also acknowledging need for spin, Bailey handed a Kings XI Punjab debut to left-arm spinner Murali Kartik ahead of seamer Rishi Dhawan.

Rajasthan Royals made a slow start losing their opening batsman Ajinkya Rahane (13) to an unfortunate run-out. Abhishek Nayar & Sanju Samson played a superb innings taking the score to 54 after 6 overs. M Karthik took the wicket of A Nayar in the very first ball trapping him leg-before. However, that did not stop the run-pour. The RR skipper, Shane Watson, then came to the middle at a point when his team needed him to capitalise on a quick start. He did it! Punishing spinners and pacers alike, Watson powered the Royals innings with regular boundaries. Even Samson joined his captain in the blitzkrieg. Both scored half centuries, 52 and 50 respectively, helping RR reach 128 in 13 overs. Even after Watson got clean bowled to A patel, the run-rate never went below 9 per over thanks to continued onslaught by Samson & Binny. After these Indian rookies got out, the baton was passed to Australia’s specialist finishers Smith & Faulkner. Together they put up a 32-run partnership helping RR put up a decent total of 191 in the end losing 5 wickets.

A flat pitch that it was, there was little or help for the bowlers of both teams. However, the batsmen definitely enjoyed batting on this surface hitting big shots and scoring in boundaries and sixes.

Faced with yet another mountainous target, KXIP needed a big start up front. However, KXIP too, lost their opening batsmen early. Virender Sehwag (2) got out in the second over of the innings off Dhawal Kulkarni. Wriddhiman Saha (2), the next man in, also did not last long and fell prey to Faulkner.

But for a team that chased down 205 in the first match, 191 was no big threat! It was all about watching Glen Maxwell continue his best form in Pepsi IPL 2014 & taking his team home with a win. Hitting 8 FOURS and 6 SIXES, he made it an easy chase for his team KXIP. David Miller did not believe in scoring FOURS as he scored his 51 runs in just 19 balls hitting 6 SIXES. In total, between them Maxwell and Miller smashed 140 off 64 balls, smocked 12 sixes and reverse-hit and caressed 8 fours. What made it even 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.

In a 166-run partnership between Pujara (40*) & him, Maxwell made 89 runs, out of which 68 came off hits to and over the fence. The RR bowlers had no answer to this astounding attack. Maxwell, however, could not finish the run-chase and fell to Kane Richardson in the 14th over. But this knock was special as it made him claim the coveted Orange Cap topping the run-scorers list of Pepsi IPL 2014.

KXIP were still 66 runs adrift of another famous run-chase with 37 balls to go. David Miller picked up from where Maxwell had left. He sent the ball over the fence 6 times; 4 of these were hit against Dhawal Kulkarni in the 18th over which actually tilted the game in KXIP’s favour. Miller not only finished the game with a SIX but also scored the fastest 50 in the IPL history.

As of now, 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 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 James Faulkner. 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!

On the other hand, Rajasthan Royals and Captain Shane Watson will also have to go back and work their bowling and fielding. Dropping important catches initially, cost them the game today; which also made it difficult for the bowlers to cope up at the later stage.

RR play their next match vs CSK on the 23rd of April, 2014 at Dubai International Cricket Stadium.

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