Kings XI Punjab 188 for 7 (Amla 65, Axar 34, Tye 2-35) beat Gujarat Lions 162 for 7 (Karthik 58*, Cariappa 2-24) by 26 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Kings XI Punjab won the critical moments of a T20, with both bat and ball, to record only the 11th instance of a team successfully defending a total in 26 matches this IPL. They got to 188 with Hashim Amla following up a century in his previous game with a 40-ball 65 that was also filled with sparkling strokeplay. Then Axar Patel smashed 34 off 17 balls in the death, complemented that by picking up two crucial wickets and eventually made sure Kings XI had their first win after batting first in this IPL.
Dinesh Karthik struck a gritty, unbeaten 58 but it was in vain as the Kings XI bowlers had solid plans and executed them as well as they could have hoped. KC Cariappa concentrated on bowling wicket to wicket and spinning the ball away from both left and right-handers. Mohit Sharma's back-of-the-hand slower balls found purchase on a pitch that got slower as the match progressed. And together they picked up three wickets in eight overs, giving away only 49 runs.
An approach to keep going
In their last match against Mumbai Indians, Kings XI scored 198 and lost with 27 balls to spare. Early signs in Rajkot indicated the pitch was just as good for batting and the boundaries were also pulled in.
Amla laid down anchor, but was still scoring at a strike-rate in excess of 150. Shaun Marsh was brash in his approach, looking to find the boundary with almost every ball. Kings XI's desire for a massive total was evident in their high-risk batting in the middle overs. Glenn Maxwell chose to sweep and reverse sweep Ravindra Jadeja - he was lbw after missing a reverse lap - soon after Amla's wicket.
A proper cameo
Axar has shown impressive hitting ability in this IPL already. So, it wasn't a surprise when he was promoted ahead of Wriddhiman Saha in the closing overs. Sticking to his strengths, he was particularly productive in the arc between long-off and midwicket. He smashed Dwayne Smith for two sixes and a four in the penultimate over to turn his 18 off 13 balls into 34 off 17.
No benefit of doubt in soft signals
The soft signal from an on-field umpire is a crucial call because the third umpire cannot overrule that decision until he has clear and conclusive evidence against it.
When Aaron Finch drove Mohit Sharma low to cover, Marcus Stoinis felt he had taken the catch but wasn't entirely sure. If there was any doubt, the soft signal should have been not out, but umpire Anil Chaudhary seemed confident it had carried, despite the fielder's hesitation. Replays, like they usually are for such decisions, were inconclusive, which meant the third umpire had no grounds to overturn the decision.
Chipping catches and lackadaisical lbws
Chases in excess of 180 are hard enough without losing early wickets and Lions lost some playing pretty sloppily. Brendon McCullum was lbw to a full toss from Sandeep Sharma. Then, Suresh Raina pulled Axar to deep midwicket. He didn't go through with his stroke nor did he keep it down. Dwayne Smith, too, mis-timed a lofted drive to long-off.
The chances of success for the strokes Raina and Smith played were considerably low. They didn't try to place the ball either side of the fielder, disallowing themselves a fail-safe if their shots were mis-timed. Lions' best resources were wastefully spent and there was no coming back.