2016 T20 IPL Cricket: Axar hat-trick undermines leaders Gujarat

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May 1, 2016

Brief Scorecard: Kings XI Punjab 154 (Vijay 55, Saha 33, Kaushik 3-20) beat Gujarat Lions 131 for 9 (Faulkner 32, Kishan 27, Axar 4-21, Mohit 3-32) by 23 runs

Axar Patel ripped through Gujarat Lions' middle order, Gujarat Lions v Kings XI Punjab, IPL 2016, Rajkot, May 1, 2016 – AFP

May 1, 2016

Brief Scorecard: Kings XI Punjab 154 (Vijay 55, Saha 33, Kaushik 3-20) beat Gujarat Lions 131 for 9 (Faulkner 32, Kishan 27, Axar 4-21, Mohit 3-32) by 23 runs

Axar Patel ripped through Gujarat Lions' middle order, Gujarat Lions v Kings XI Punjab, IPL 2016, Rajkot, May 1, 2016 – AFP

RAJKOT: They came into this match in some disarray, having lost five of their six previous games with a mid-tournament captaincy change, taking on the table toppers on home ground. But on Sunday (May 1), Kings XI Punjab showed the spark that made them such a delight to watch in the 2014 season with a 23-run win over Gujarat Lions at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium.

There were two sets of middle-order collapses in the match, one by each team. But the one that counted came courtesy Axar Patel, who took the first hat-trick of IPL 2016, spread across two overs, on his way to eventual figures of 4 for 21. Mohit Sharma snapped the spine of Gujarat’s batting by castling Brendon McCullum and Suresh Raina inside the first five overs – both going in identical fashion after backing away while looking to thrash straight balls that connected with the stumps instead of the bat. That gave Punjab hope after the batsmen had scraped together 154 all out in 19.5 overs, which seemed a below-par total, but one that proved well in excess of the 131 for 9 Gujarat eventually mustered.

The result didn’t alter either team’s position on the points table, but even though they are still at the bottom, Punjab will take heart from the result. And even though they are still on top, Gujarat will take heed that they cannot relax with so much of the tournament remaining.

Axar had been brought into the attack as early as the fourth over, M Vijay doing a good job of keeping Gujarat’s batsmen on their toes by regularly shuffling his bowlers. It was in the seventh over that Axar hit the jackpot. Off the third ball, Dwayne Smith couldn’t find the middle of the bat and only hit down the throat of Gurkeerat Singh Mann at long-off. Off the fifth, Dinesh Karthik played all around a delivery that found the stumps, and Dwayne Bravo departed first ball, playing on with leaden feet. From a shaky 36 for 2, Gujarat were in dire straits at 39 for 5.

When Axar returned after another break, Ravindra Jadeja was given out caught behind off the first ball of the 11th over. The batsman was clearly unhappy with the decision – as unhappy as Glenn Maxwell had been when he was given out caught behind in Punjab’s innings despite the ball not being anywhere near the bat – but Axar had his hat-trick and the match had slipped further out of Gujarat’s reach.

From six down in 11 overs, Gujarat needed 94 more runs with the cream of the batting back in the hut. It looked like an impossible task and proved to be exactly that, giving Punjab a sorely needed win. Axar’s feat stole the spotlight from another fine performance by a left-armer on the day, Shivil Kaushik’s chinaman bowling fetching 3 for 20 for Gujarat.

That Punjab had a total that gave the bowlers something to bowl at was down to Vijay and Wriddhiman Saha playing the lead roles in a batting innings rife with mistakes that could have well cost the side dear, if not for the bowlers’ brilliance. Vijay played a fine hand full of the most pleasantly timed strokes to make 55 off 41, before Saha, back into the XI after sitting out a couple of games, showed that his benching was perhaps too hasty with a valuable 19-ball 33 that gave Punjab some impetus after a middle-order collapse.

True to their pre-match status, Punjab had made a raft of changes to the XI. In addition to Saha returning in place of Nikhil Naik, Marcus Stoinis was brought back while Gurkeerat Singh Mann and KC Cariappa were given their first games of the season, also the first for the Punjab franchise for Cariappa.

Stoinis and Vijay, the new opening combine, began brilliantly, Vijay doing the early scoring and Stoinis finding his range when Jadeja was brought on. Stoinis was clearly in the mood to take Jadeja on, and had already danced down the track to good effect a couple of times. When he tried it again, the bowler spotted him coming down the track, pulled the length back and bowled it wider, for Karthik to effect a simple stumping.

The openers had done their job in putting on 65 in 6.4 overs, but instead of kicking on from that platform, Punjab imploded. Maxwell could justifiably point at a bad decision, but for the other batsmen that were a part of the middle-order collapse, the finger of blame pointed squarely at themselves, though Kaushik’s control played its part. He got Shaun Marsh and Maxwell in his first over, and Gurkeerat was run out in the next as Punjab slid to 73 for 4, having lost four men in 2.2 overs for the addition of just eight runs. Vijay and David Miller did the rebuilding before Vijay became Kaushik’s third victim, after which Saha smacked some quick runs with intelligent placement and fast running doing the job.

The end came more swiftly than Punjab would have liked, with the last four wickets adding only 15 runs, but as it turned out, an inspired day in the field ensured Punjab not only began the match well, but more importantly, ended it well.


Courtesy: Wisden India

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