Kings XI barely defend 230 to stay alive

A 453-run slugfest – the second-highest aggregate in IPL history – was decided in the final over with Mohit Sharma defending 15 to deny a rampaging Kieron Pollard as Kings XI Punjab lived to fight another day.

The odds were stacked against Mohit, especially after he had leaked 49 off his first three overs. Mumbai Indians were within touching distance of achieving the highest successful chase in the IPL. Kings XI let the pressure get to them; Glenn Maxwell, one of their best fielders, palmed the ball over the long-off boundary to reprieve Karn Sharma on 5. They had to contend with dew as well. Sandeep Sharma then pulled things back by conceding just seven off the penultimate over. Maxwell could have chosen either Ishant Sharma or Mohit for the last over. He went with his tried-and-tested end-overs specialist, and Mohit delivered.

The first ball – full on off stump – was belted to long-on, and Pollard hared across for the second, but replays indicated that he did not slide his bat inside the crease at the non-striker’s end. It was called one short, but Pollard still had the strike. Mohit then unfurled the slower knuckle ball and watched it disappear into the boundary behind midwicket. It was down to nine off four balls. Mohit nailed three pinpoint yorkers and a dipping knuckle ball, which Pollard did not pick, to seal the deal.

No Hashim Amla? No problem. Manan Vohra has been successful at the top for Kings XI this season, but the management took a punt by sending Wriddhiman Saha to open with Martin Guptill. Before today, Saha had opened in only six out of 163 T20s for 126 runs. He might not have all the shots, but has the smarts. Remember his hundred in the 2014 IPL final?

Saha used the pace of Mumbai’s seamers to his advantage and picked his areas to hit four fours in his first seven balls. Guptill provided a fine counterpoint to Saha’s finesse by forcing the ball through the line. This meant Kings XI zoomed to fifty in 3.4 overs – the second fastest this season behind Kolkata Knight Riders, who got there in 3.3 overs against Royal Challengers Bangalore.

If Mumbai had thought Karn’s dismissal of Guptill in the last over of the Powerplay would slow Kings XI down, they were wrong. Maxwell, promoted to No. 3, and Saha pillaged 50 off the next three overs. The highlights included Saha’s dexterous paddle sweep off Mitchell McClenaghan for four and Maxwell’s monstrous clubs over the leg-side boundary off Harbhajan Singh.

Desperate for the wicket, Rohit turned to Lasith Malinga and Jasprit Bumrah. It was Bumrah who bowled Maxwell for 47 off 21 balls with a skiddy delivery. On a night when he colleagues went for over 10 runs an over, Bumrah stood out with figures of 1 for 24 in his four overs. In all, Saha managed just 10 off 13 balls against Bumrah.

Saha, though, stepped out of his comfort zone and started carting the ball. A Malinga slower ball was launched over his head, a McClenaghan slower ball was swatted over midwicket. Shaun Marsh and Axar Patel, though, could not find the boundary as regularly. Kings XI, ultimately, scored only 40 off the last four. It was, however, enough to put up the highest total in IPL 2017.

Given the enormity of the task, Mumbai’s openers showed intent from the first ball. Lendl Simmons, preferred again over Jos Buttler, led the charge smashing 44 of the 68 runs Mumbai hit in the first six overs. Kings XI’s seamers fed his strengths by bowling too straight, and Simmons duly picked them off. He also played some fluent strokes on the off side by staying leg side of the ball. Soon after the Powerplay, he brought up his second fifty in three matches, off 27 balls.

At the other end, Parthiv Patel had found his groove with a brace of cover-driven fours off Matt Henry. Parthiv then got stuck into Mohit, spanking a hat-trick of fours. But when he attempted a fourth, Mohit bounced him out.

In the next over, Simmons swung hard at a full-toss that was destined to sail over the long-on boundary…until Guptill took flight and pulled off an incredible one-handed catch. Rahul Tewatia then struck in his first over to remove Rohit Sharma and leave Mumbai at 119 for 3 by the 12th over. It was the sixth time this season that Rohit had perished to legspin. Mumbai only added two runs before Axar Patel had Nitish Rana holing out with a 102kph dart.

When Pollard and Hardik Pandya got together, Mumbai needed 110 off 44 balls. What followed in the next three overs was carnage: 52 runs. With 56 needed off 24 balls, Maxwell recalled Sandeep. The seamer found Hardik’s outside edge with Saha flying to his right and claiming a low catch. However, Pollard, aided by Karn, kept peppering the arc between midwicket and long-on with clean strikes.

After being taken for hat-trick by boundaries in the 18th by Karn – one of which was palmed over by Maxwell – Mohit hit back to bowl him with a slower offcutter. Sandeep then executed a barrage of yorkers in the 19th before Mohit followed suit and coolly applied the finishing touches. (Courtesy ESPN Cricinfo)