Fifty four runs off 36 balls with eight wickets in hand should have been a cruise for Delhi Daredevils. Instead, they were undone by an outstanding display of end-overs bowling by Marcus Stoinis, Sandeep Sharma and Mohit Sharma as Kings XI Punjab breathed life into a flagging campaign with a nine-run win, their third in nine matches this season at the PCA Stadium in Mohali.
Carlos Brathwaite and Chris Morris, capable of lusty hitting, were bested by a train of slow leg-cutters interspersed with a few quick short balls. Kings XI defence of 181 for 5 was all the more remarkable because they had to battle the dew as well. Daredevils finished with 172 for 5 to go down for the second time in three nights.
Quinton De Kock did the early running in a superbly-timed 30-ball 52. Neither the asking rate nor the fact that he was left out of the previous match had little effect on his approach as Daredevils overcame a slow start – the first four overs fetched just 23 – to build a solid base with a 70-run opening stand in 7.5 overs.
De Kock’s enterprise he raised his fifty off just 27 balls allowed Sanju Samson the opportunity to milk the runs as Kings XI suddenly started to wilt under the pressure. De Kock slicing Stoinis’ slower delivery to point came as a soothing balm, until they ran into the in-form Karun Nair. The Karnataka batsman, without intimidating, effectively brought the target down to manageable proportions by mixing singles with the odd boundary. Samson showed the first signs of attack immediately after a strategy break, by launching KC Cariappa over long-off in the 10th over as Daredevils went into the second half needing 91 with nine wickets in hand.
As the ball got older, there was grip and a hint of bounce s the ball hit certain areas on the pitch. Suddenly, runs didn’t flow as freely as they did until that point, leaving Nair and Samson to manufacture shots. With the surface slowing down a touch, Kings XI had a semblance of opportunity going into the last six overs. But the pressure of having faced three dot balls off Mohit resulted in an uncharacteristic swipe from Nair, but was shelled at wide long-on by David Miller. Three balls later, Miller redeemed himself to dismiss Nair with a tumbling catch at long-off, leaving Daredevils needing 48 off 27 balls.
A deflated unit suddenly lifted themselves, with Vijay bringing his strike bowlers back. While there was brief panic when Brathwaite muscled a four and six in the 18th over to bring the equation down to 29 off 14, his dismissal to a well thought-out short-ball trap – he holed out to deep midwicket – brought about an air of inevitability to the chase.
That Kings XI gave themselves an opportunity to defend a score which Vijay described as “above par” was courtesy Stoinis and Wriddhiman Saha. Daredevils misfielded to give away a handful of runs and missed runs outs. The bowlers also relaxed once they had the wickets of Vijay and Hashim Amla, on IPL debut, in the space of eight deliveries to leave Kings XI on 48 for 2 in seven overs.
Stoinis countered Daredevils’ spin threat by getting to the pitch of the ball and targeting the shorter straight boundaries at one end. His six of Shahbaz Nadeem, the left-arm spinner, in the ninth over was the only big hit between overs 7-11. Briefly, Daredevils threatened to stagnate the innings after the halfway mark, but Saha kept the scorecard tickling along and moved quietly into the 30s. The pair brought up their half-century stand off just 33 deliveries, with not one shot played in anger or frustration. There was no mindless slogging either as their pair took time against some disciplined bowling from Chris Morris and Amit Mishra, before finding their range.
Once set, Saha took apart a gingerly Zaheer Khan, bowling off a short run-up, for 16 runs off his third over, the 16th of the innings. He pulled, flicked and cut with touch of disdain as he brought up his first 50 plus score since the IPL final in 2014 against Kolkata Knight Riders.
The dismissal of Glenn Maxwell, who walked across and missed a flick off Morris, and Saha off successive deliveries, with 11 balls still to play, briefly gave Daredevils hope of restricting Kings XI below 165. But Axar’s unbeaten 5-ball 16 gave them a few extra runs to defend, which proved more than handy in the end.