All star of the match

Saha finds his groove at the top

Wriddhiman Saha wasn't quite himself as a floater in the middle order; he seized his opportunity as an opener to score a breezy 93

Varun Shetty
Varun Shetty

Star turn

Before tonight, Wriddhiman Saha floated through Kings XI's batting order, occupying every slot between No. 3 and No. 7 at least once in a span of nine innings. It wasn't a sign of the management's trust in his versatility; Kings XI had just struggled to find their best combination.
Saha's promotion to the opening slot could have been because of a few reasons. It might have been Amla's departure at the top - Saha, as opposed to Manan Vohra, would be more of a partner in the traditional mould for Martin Guptill. More realistically, it might have been Saha's struggle to find boundaries in the middle overs, particularly against Kolkata Knight Riders on Tuesday. After that game, he had hit nine fours and four sixes in nine innings this season. That was 13 boundaries out of 115 balls faced. Harmful for a team that wants Glenn Maxwell, their only designated hitter in the middle order, to bat higher up the order.
It might just also have been a whim, which would hardly be surprising coming from Kings XI's management. Whatever it was, it worked.
Without the burden of middle-order stability, and the added incentive of gaps between and on top of the fielders in the Powerplay, Saha abandoned his usual conservative approach. His early boundaries barely involved feet movement, and hardly any of them were hit with the intention of hugging the turf. Saha seemed more keen on the runs than the manner of scoring today, and his six boundaries inside the Powerplay gave him and Kings XI the perfect start.
For the rest of the innings, he adjusted his approach, briefly accumulating runs when Maxwell - who did come in at No. 3 - was around. He then switched gears to nudge ahead of Shaun Marsh and Axar Patel who had to contend with Mumbai's best bowlers as Rohit Sharma looked to apply the brakes.
In the end, Saha remained unbeaten on 93. The last time he scored a hundred, Kings XI had lost. Today, he ended seven short of a hundred. And Mumbai eventually lost by seven runs.

The wow moment

In the 12th over, Rohit brought back Harbhajan, who had been tonked for 21 off his first over. Harbhajan had gone for 23, 22, 23 and 20 runs in his last four matches - all four-over spells. Rohit's punt was that Maxwell's dismissal was an opportunity for his most in-form bowler to squeeze Kings XI in the middle overs.
Saha was having none of it. Only two had come off the first three balls, so he skipped down the track, just about got to the pitch and then executed an old-fashioned lift over long-on. It was as soothing to the eyes as it might have been pleasing to him - it was his first six and it had brought up his first fifty of the season.

Stats that matter

  • Wriddhiman Saha hit more fours today than he had hit all season before this match
  • Before today, Saha had opened in only six out of 163 T20 matches. As an opener, he had managed only 126 runs in six matches at an average of 21

What they said

"We played fearless cricket. Hashim led the way for us, today for Saha to get the reward was superb. We've thrown him up and down the order, been a little harsh on him, but he's been superb."
Glenn Maxwell
"When you don't have anything to lose, it brings the best out of you. Rightly said @Wriddhipops. It has indeed brought the BEST out of #KXIP"
Hemang Badani, the former India batsman, on Twitter

Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo