Mayank Agarwal of Kings XI Punjab hits a boundary
Mayank Agarwal of Kings XI Punjab hits a boundary against Delhi Capitals in the IPL 2020 match in Dubai on September 20, 2020. Image Credit: Ron Gaunt/Sportzpics for BCCI

Mayank Agarwal is the hero for Kings XI Punjab. The India Test opener steered them to the cusp of victory over Delhi Capitals, only to fall one short of the target. The win and the two points in the IPL 2020 may have evaporated, but Agarwal can heart from the manner he breathed life into the crumbling Punjab innings.

If it was not for Agarwal’s lionhearted batting, Punjab might have finished below 100 at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Sunday. It was so close, which is why it rankles him.

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“It hurts really not to close off the game from the situation that we were in. Feels terrible,” Agarwal told KXIP TV, recalling the stumble at the doorstep of what would have been a superb victory. “Definitely, we should have finished the game,” he added.

Agarwal, who opened the innings, stood among the ruins of Punjab’s innings at 55 for five. He hadn’t had much strike. With more strike coming his way, Agarwal unleashed a flurry of strokes that injected confidence into Krishnappa Gowtham, who went on play a valuable cameo.

After that, it was Agarwal all the way as he waded into the Delhi attack. Forget the umpiring error that deprived Punjab a run. With two balls to go, the scores were tied when he essayed a shot into the only man in the outfield. That’s why he feels the pain.

The pain will go away if this comeback fuels Punjab’s performances in the matches to come. “There are a lot of positives to take out [from this game]. The way we came back was fantastic, the way we bowled with the new ball was terrific,” Agarwal said, dwelling on the high points.

Born in Bangalore, Karnataka, Mayank Anurag Agarwal boasts an excellent record in first-class cricket, including a triple century. He had played a stellar role in the Ranji Trophy triumphs, piling bushels full of runs. That earned him a call-up to the Indian team in 2018.

Dream Test debut in Australia

After sitting out the West Indies series, Agarwal was flown in provide steel to the Indian batting in Australia. His 76 in Melbourne is the highest score by an Indian on debut in Australia. His maiden century was a double ton against South Africa; he followed it with another hundred in the next match.

Agarwal first played IPL for Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2011, and three years later he moved to Delhi Daredevils and Rising Pune Giants before signing for Kings XI Punjab in 2018. Sunday’s knock would give Punjab the confidence for the rest of the tournament in the UAE.

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“This is just the first game. We can get things rolling again. Let’s see how we will go in the coming games. I think to play a game like that first up was fantastic. Everyone was up for it. The guys really put in the effort. Definitely, we should have finished the game when we needed one run.” Agarwal said. “We batted extremely well to reach there. I don’t know what to say [about the last over].”

Head coach Anil Kumble too was disappointed with the result but was proud of the way Punjab played. “The game was taken away in the last few overs that we bowled. Mayank batted brilliantly. We should have won the game. We let Delhi off the hook,” he told KXIP TV.