Axar Patel took four wickets in five balls, including the first hat-trick of the season, to pave the way for Kings XI Punjab’s 23-run win against table-toppers Gujarat Lions in Rajkot. Axar’s burst reduced Lions to 57 for 6 in their chase of 155, setting up the side’s second win of the season. Both sides suffered batting collapses but Lions were poorer as they stuttered to their second loss of the season.
Kings XI’s defence of 154 got off to an ideal start with the early wickets of Brendon McCullum and Suresh Raina, as both batsmen missed straight balls from Mohit Sharma. After a slow Powerplay, Axar was brought on in the seventh over, his second of the innings. Off the third ball, Dwayne Smith muscled a lofted drive and found Gurkeerat Singh at long-off. Two balls later, the left-arm spinner got one to skid through and Dinesh Karthik’s inside edge clattered into leg stump. Dwayne Bravo chopped the first ball he faced onto his stumps and the over ended with Lions at a shaky 39 for 5.
Brought back in the 11th over, Axar then got his first ball to dart past Ravindra Jadeja’s outside edge. It seemed like bat had hit pad, but the umpire raised his finger. This was Axar’s first T20 hat-trick, and the 14th of the tournament.
Thereafter, Lions were always behind the climbing asking rate. Kings XI’s new captain M Vijay rotated his bowlers continuously. Ishan Kishan and James Faulkner added to Lions’ score but the slide had taken much of the game out of their hands.
At the halfway stage, however, it did not seem like Kings XI had enough. Despite a flying start from Vijay and Marcus Stoinis, Kings XI collapsed to 154. Vijay’s sweetly timed drives and flicks off Lions’ seamers, Dhawal Kulkarni and Praveen Kumar, helped the side score 34 off the first four overs. Vijay contributed 31 of those. Stoinis, then, cut loose and Kings XI plundered 59 off the Powerplay, their highest this season.
In the seventh over, Stoinis ran past a slider from Jadeja and the wicket sparked another Kings XI collapse. Chinaman bowler Shivil Kaushik’s whippy action forced Kings XI to look for pushes and nudges. Shaun Marsh could not keep one of those flicks down and found midwicket. On a pitch with a bit of grass, Kaushik found no turn, but his quick-arm action caused the ball to skid off the surface. One ball after Marsh was dismissed, Glenn Maxwell missed an attempted a cut off Kaushik and the ball snuck under his bat. Dinesh Karthik belted out an appeal and the umpire raised his finger, much to Maxwell’s bewilderment.
Kings XI’s situation worsened when Gurkeerat Singh, one of four changes for Kings XI, was run out after an acrobatic effort from James Faulkner at point. Kings XI stuttered from 65 for 0 in the seventh over to 73 for 4 in the ninth.
David Miller and Wriddhiman Saha, though, found the boundary regularly in their 39-run stand for the sixth wicket. They tried to build a platform for a late surge but that did not come as Dwayne Bravo and Praveen Kumar brought out their slower balls to flummox Kings XI’s lower order. Lions conceded one four off the last three overs and picked up five wickets to bowl Kings XI out.