The 7th match saw Kings XI Punjab lock horns with Rajasthan Royals. After victories in their respective first games the fans would have hoped for a good match. What they got was a breathtaking game with batsmen from both the sides trying to one-up their opponents. In the end Maxwell and Miller, Punjab’s heroes from the first game, were able to thump Rajasthan into the oblivion and win by 7 wickets and 8 balls to spare on April 20, 2014 at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
Team composition: Both teams made one change from the sides that won the first match. For Rajasthan, Steven Smith came in for Brad Hodge and for Kings XI, seam bowling allrounder Rishi Dhawan made way for Murali Kartik.
Batting: After being put in by Kings XI, Rajasthan ran up a score of 191 for the loss of 5 wickets. Sanju Samson was the highest scorer with a 52 from 34 balls and was well aided by Shane Watson who blasted a 50 from 29 balls. Steven Smith and Abhishek Nayar made some handy contributions as well that boosted the total significantly.
Replying to the good total Punjab coasted home owing to the magnificence of Maxwell who butchered 89 from 45 balls and Miller who smashed the Royals bowlers all around the park for a 51 from a mere 19 balls. Pujara, who opened the innings, played the sheet anchor role to perfection and remained not out in the end. It was his assured presence that allowed both the strokemakers to make merry and win the game for the team.
Bowling: For Kings XI, Akshar Patel and Johnson, who redeemed himself after a poor game against the CSK, were the standout bowlers with 1 for 22 and 1 for 29 respectively. Awana and Kartik picked up a wicket apiece but conceded too many runs as did L Balaji who did not add anything to the wickets column in this game.
Kane Richardson was the best bowler for the Royals with 1 for 25 from 3 and Praveen Tambe was conceded the least amount of runs with just 26 from his 4 overs. Kulkarni and Faulkner picked up a wicket apiece but conceded 95 runs between them. It was their below par performance on the day that turned the game in Kings’ favor. Rajat Bhatia was expensive as well. In all, Royals’ bowling in this game was a complete antithesis of how they performed against the Sunrisers.
Where do the teams go from here?
Kings XI Punjab has come off 2 straight victories but it will be the first to admit that the 2 victories have come on the back of sterling performances by Miller and Maxwell and by batting second in both the games. So, there is a definite pattern to their game. For a team that wants to win the championship there should not be a set pattern because if the pattern is overturned the team may not be able to replicate the success. Batsmen like Sehwag and Saha, who are yet to come good, need to start producing more runs if the team has to reduce its dependence on the two Ms – Maxwell and Miller in the long run.
Royals clearly need to change their strategy. Watson needs to review his role in the side. He should bat higher up the order, preferably in the opening position, and bowl his 4 overs. Binny should also be used as a bowler. While he may not be as good as a bowler as Rajat Bhatia he is a far better batsman and together he and Watson will be more than adequate replacements for Bhatia. The batting could be strengthened further by using Unmukt Chand instead of Bhatia. The place of Faulkner needs to be looked at as well. Considering he has not a good couple of matches may be Ben Cutting or Kevon Cooper could be brought into the team. However, it has to be well thought out and should not be a knee jerk reaction to the loss against Punjab.