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Axar, Sandeep thrust Kings XI after another RCB collapse

Kings XI Punjab 138 for 7 (Axar 38) beat Royal Challengers Bangalore 119 (Mandeep 46, Axar 3-11, Sandeep 3-22) by 19 runs

M36 - KXIP vs DD

BCCI Photo

Setting a target or chasing one, Royal Challengers Bangalore have swung to the collapso beat through the season. Up against a relatively simple chase of 139, albeit on a slow surface, Royal Challengers slumped to 119, slipping to their fifth consecutive loss in completed games.

Kings XI Punjab executed on all counts in the second innings – their seamers were accurate, the spinners were economical and the fielding wasn’t conspicuous, all of which resulted in the lowest total defended at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in the IPL, drastically improving their chances of making the playoffs.

Axar Patel had another stellar day with bat and ball. He took 3 for 11, but his most important contribution came towards the closing stages of the first innings, with his cameo – 38 off 17 balls – pushing Kings XI to 138. Sandeep Sharma then took out Royal Challengers’ best batsmen – Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers – in his opening spell to fatally weaken a brittle batting line-up.

Batsmen cheated by relaid pitch

In previous seasons, batsmen were allowed to do what they wanted at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium. They had the backing of short boundaries if a shot was mis-timed and gradually developed a relationship of trust with a true, gorgeous surface.

This season, a relaid surface has not only belied that trust, but it has already begun an intimate affair with the bowlers. A slow pitch with variable bounce was evident from the outset, and Kings XI struggled to cope with an atypical IPL surface. The average Powerplay score, before this game, was 39.4 at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in first innings’ this season. Kings XI laboured to 35 and lost their openers – Hashim Amla and Martin Guptill – in the Powerplay. Royal Challengers claimed the early advantage and didn’t let go.

Axar’s finishing credentials

A wire-to-wire win – dominating from start to finish – is a rare entity in T20s, primarily because an over, or even a ball, can change the direction of momentum. Axar has added incredible clean-hitting ability to his repertoire this season: before this game, he had hammered 112 runs off 59 balls in the end overs this season at a strike rate of 189.67, clinically executing his role as finisher.

Against Royal Challengers, he simply planned well and executed – picking his areas and battering them. He ended with 38 off just 17 balls, including taking Shane Watson for 18 in the last over. Momentum, clichéd as it may be, was with Kings XI. Kohli, visibly displeased with the last over, knew it too.

Swing+accuracy>pace?

Sandeep’s biggest asset is not his speed – he is just about medium pace – but his accuracy and the ability to move the ball both ways. He is at his devastating best when he is able to find them both in perfect sync. He had one hooping away from Gayle to have him caught at point. Then, he got through Kohli’s defence with an inswinger.

Aware that de Villiers was anticipating another inswinger, he bowled a couple of deliveries that moved away – one beat the bat, one took the edge. Sandeep, using his strengths, had opened up Royal Challengers’ weakness.

Confidence affecting ability

Home or away, strong or not, Royal Challengers’ batting has failed this season. Confidence is an abstract aspect that is almost always defined by results in sports. The confidence of success can positively influence tight games, but repeated failures can have a devastating effect mentally. Royal Challengers’ middle order haven’t found any answers – in intent, direction or approach – when their powerful top order has failed. Against a tight Kings XI attack, Royal Challengers’ batsmen were found bereft of belief, not for the first time this season.

Credit:@ESPN Sports Media Ltd