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McLaren's battle in vain

Ryan McLaren finds fans in Nagpur AFP

Ryan McLaren only got an IPL contract due to injuries to England allrounders Stuart Broad and Dmitri Mascarenhas. Though he had performed creditably with Mumbai Indians in the previous IPL seasons, he was passed over at this year's auction. Kings XI Punjab had to thank him though for at least helping the team put up a fight in their opening match against Pune Warriors.

Punjab lost their big-name overseas batsmen, Adam Gilchrist and Shaun Marsh, as early as the second over, and were soon gasping at 9 for 4. Even triple digits looked a long way away from Punjab, after the top six had failed on a track with plenty of bounce, before South African allrounder Ryan McLaren pulled off some big hits towards the end of the innings to ensure it wasn't entirely one-way traffic.

Punjab were soon 45 for 6 before McLaren intervened. He was cautious early on as he re-built the innings with Piyush Chawla, with only 25 runs coming in a nine-over spell, and even at the end of the 18th over, the run-rate wasn't even five. It was only in the last two overs that McLaren showed his hard-hitting abilities, clubbing the ball over midwicket and glancing to fine leg as he plundered 22 to reach his half-century and slightly dent the party mood among Pune fans.

He wasn't done yet, plucking a sharp catch at extra cover to send back Graeme Smith for a golden duck. That perked up Punjab, and though he also dismissed Jesse Ryder in the ninth over, the target was too small to deny Pune.