Losing the plot when it counts
Kings XI Punjab had been the in-form batting unit of the tournament. Slogs and heaves are commonplace in the Twenty20 format, but Punjab's batsmen, especially Shaun Marsh, had used conventional strokes to bisect fields and take apart opposition attacks. However, when it mattered the most, Marsh was the biggest offender among a string of batsmen who chose the rash over the reliable.
Marsh was Man of the Match in five of his ten games, and Punjab sailed into second spot thanks primarily to the strong platform he laid at the top. However, with Marsh accumulating the runs, his more illustrious team-mates in the middle order hadn't faced much of a challenge in the tournament.
Tom Moody, their coach, had brushed aside those fears, confident his batsmen were in good nick. But the likes of Kumar Sangakkara, Yuvraj Singh and Mahela Jayawardene fell apart in the face of some hostile, accurate bowling by Makhaya Ntini and Manpreet Gony.
Pressure, athletes tell us, is something they thrive on. But adrenalin used wrongly can backfire. Just as the Delhi Daredevils batting order had crumbled the previous evening, Punjab lost the momentum early on and kept faltering. Ntini and Gony pitched it short and the Punjab batsmen, instead of trying to survive the early barrage, attempted ill-advised, expansive strokes.
James Hopes flailed unconvincingly at a wide one, handing an easy catch to the wicketkeeper. Marsh had already been surprised by Ntini's pace on the bouncer as a top-edged pull sailed for six, but didn't learn his lesson and played-on another sharp shorter delivery in Ntini's next over. Sangakkara was undone by a good outswinger from Gony but he had committed to go for a flashy drive and in the process offered the faintest of edges. All batsmen of class, but each one failing while trying to force the pace.
Moody later blamed the defeat on his batsmen, who he admitted suffered from nerves, to execute the plans. "It was the first time this has happened, the top order failing so badly," he said. "We faced a critical stumbling block today from which we could never recover."
Yuvraj was disconsolate and left the left the post-match presentation mid-way. For him the match was lost in the first phase. "We didn't do well under pressure. We lost too many wickets too quickly in the first 5-7 overs.
"We lost the main batsmen very quickly in the game, as a result we had no specialist batsmen left in the last 10 overs," Yuvraj said. "This is our worst game in the tournament. It hit us hard as in Twenty20 you don't get time to recover."