Rajkot: Axar Patel (4/21) and Mohit Sharma (3/32) helped Kings XI Punjab register their only second win in seven Indian Premier League (IPL) games as they overcame table-toppers Gujarat Lions by 23 runs on Sunday.
Chasing 155, Gujarat were reduced to 34/2 in five overs after right-arm pacer Mohit disturbed the stumps of Brendon McCullum (1) and Suresh Raina (18). Then Axar broke Punjab’s back in the seventh over, removing West Indian Dwayne Smith (15), Dinesh Karthik (2) and Dwayne Bravo (0) — the final two wickets fell in the fifth and sixth deliveries.
Then, after a bowling change, Axar was brought back into the attack in the 11th over. On the first ball, he sent Ravindra Jadeja (11) packing, taking the first hat-trick of the edition — 14th overall in IPL’s history.
Gujarat were then reeling at 57/6 and were in desperate need of a partnership. Ishan Kishan (27) and James Faulkner (32) infused hopes in the home team’s camp. But the job was too stiff, as they fell short by 23 runs.
Despite the loss at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Gujarat remain on top of the points table with six wins. Meanwhile, Punjab were also stranded at the last place with four points — same as Rising Pune Supergiants and Royal Challengers Bangalore, but behind on net run rate.
Earlier, put in to bat, new captain Murali Vijay played a key knock of 55 off 41 deliveries as the visitors recovered from a middle-order collapse to post 154 in 19.5 overs.
Punjab got off to a very good start as Vijay and Stoinis (27 off 17) took the team’s total to 59 in the powerplay (six) overs. Vijay looked in ominous touch, hitting medium-pacer Praveen Kumar for four fours in the bowler’s first two overs.
Punjab were sailing smoothly but young left-arm Chinaman bowler Shivil Kaushik’s 3/20 helped the hosts gain a strong foothold in the match. Punjab lost four wickets between seventh to ninth over and were reduced to 73/4.
Just when Stoinis was looking dangerous, left-arm spinner Jadeja broke the stand by having the Australian right-hander stumped by wicketkeeper Karthik in the fourth ball of the sixth over. Then, the visitors were 65/1 but afterwards they failed to capitalise on the good start.
The next over, bowled by Kaushik, saw Punjab lose two key wickets off successive deliveries. Left-hander Shaun Marsh (1) was caught by captain Raina at short midwicket, while Glenn Maxwell got out for a duck to a contentious caught-behind decision off a wide ball, leaving the Australian right-hander shaking his head in disbelief.
Another drama unfolded on the penultimate ball of the ninth over when new batsman Gurkeerat Singh Mann, coming into the side replacing Manan Vohra, attempted a cut towards Faulkner at backward point. Gurkeerat was sent back in his attempt to take a single by Vijay and, on his return, he was found short of the crease.
With the side reeling at 73/4, Vijay and David Miller tried to resurrect the innings, Meanwhile, Vijay reached fifty — second in this edition — before being holed out at deep midwicket by Dwayne Bravo, giving Kaushik his third wicket.
Later, sacked skipper David Miller (31) and Wriddhiman Saha’s cameo of 19-ball 33 helped Punjab get a respectable total, which they managed to successfully defend, thanks to Mohit and Axar.