Axar Patel - any left-arm spinner or legspinner - was going to be a big player for Kings XI Punjab against a big-hitting Gujarat Lions side. And Axar Patel had the numbers to be that big player. Coming into this match, Axar has dismissed Brendon McCullum twice, conceding 35 runs off 36 balls, Dwayne Smith once for 11 off 12 balls, and though he hadn't dismissed Aaron Finch, he had kept him to only 10 runs off eight balls.
There were two problems, though. Kings XI had been put in on a flat pitch, and needed to get a big total on the board. And when their turn to bowl would come, Axar would have to contend with Suresh Raina, a left-hand batsman who had a good record against Axar.
Before the test with the ball arrived, Axar found his team's batting innings floundering. After getting themselves in, both Hashim Amla and Glenn Maxwell fell in successive overs to make it 132 for 4 in the 15th over. When it was time for them to kick on towards 200, Kings XI were now looking to find ways to get past 180, especially with Marcus Stoinis struggling for his nine-ball seven.
Lions, though, left the door ajar by bowling Dwayne Smith in the 19th over. Axar took toll of that decision, swinging his way to a 17-ball 34, and gave his side a total they could hope to defend.
Lions got the wicket of McCullum early, which meant introducing Axar for Finch would also mean bowling at Raina. So they waited, and after the eighth over, they finally went to Axar even with Raina at the wicket. In his first over, Axar got rid of Raina, and then in his third, he sent back Smith to all but seal a successful defence. The timing of this performance is perfect with Champions Trophy selection not far away.
The wow moment
With Nathu Singh off injured with figures of 2-0-7-1, Smith began the 19th over with 158 for 5 on the board. Kings XI were under real threat of scoring an under-par total. Axar saw his window, and burst right through 16 off the first three balls of that over. The sixes went over midwicket and mid-on.
Stats that matter
This was the first time Axar dismissed Raina, after having gone for 32 runs off 21 balls previously.
This was the first time Axar scored 30 or more and took two wickets or more in an IPL match.
In the last five overs of the Kings XI innings, Axar hit five boundaries off 14 balls; the others put together managed to clear the ropes only once.
What they said
"I can't say enough about Cariappa, he bowled the right lengths, him and Axar Patel did a great holding job and kept the run-rate up for them. We have a great group of guys who are easily motivated."
Glenn Maxwell is all praise for his spinners