CHENNAI: There was something strange about Punjab Kings’ innings. Since the start of the season, with fresh faces at their disposal, they have already established a style of play with the bat, which is to be committed in attack no matter what. These are early days but when it led to their downfall against Kolkata Knight Riders, they bounced back by sticking to the philosophy against Chennai Super Kings.
Against Gujarat Titans, as Punjab finished with 189/9 on board, they left you wondering if they had managed a very good total or they left a few more runs behind at the Brabourne Stadium. And with 12 runs needed off two balls as Rahul Tewatia hit Odean Smith for two sixes to keep Gujarat Titans unbeaten, you knew where it cost Punjab. More on that latter.
At the end of the powerplay with Mayank Agarwal (5) and Jonny Bairstow (8) dismissed, Punjab were placed 43/2. This was their slowest start to an innings this season.
Prior to this contest against Gujarat, they had been scoring at 10.9 RPO in the powerplay for the loss of five wickets. And instrumental to that has been Bhanuka Rajapaksa, who had to make way for Bairstow on Friday. Given the context, Gujarat started really well to keep Punjab quiet by their standards.
The middle-overs is where teams usually tend to slow down, they have maintained the momentum. Against Royal Challengers Bangalore they scored 99 runs between overs 7-16 for the loss of 5 wickets and in their match against Chennai got 80 runs. And these were on the back of them getting off to a good start.
But on Friday, having lost two key players and Shikhar Dhawan far from his fluent best (35 off 30b), they still managed to stick to their philosophy and keep them in the contest by scoring 112 runs from seventh over to the 16th.
And it was largely thanks to Liam Livingstone, whose 27-ball 64 (7x4, 46) changed the momentum single-handedly. Starting his innings by scoring a boundary off the first ball, he played only three dot balls in total.
Although he lost Dhawan, Jitesh Sharma ensured the pressure wasn’t on Livingstone alone, scoring 23 off 11. While Odean Smith was dismissed off the first ball he faced – stuck to their philosophy, went for a big shot and was caught on long-on – Shahrukh Khan contributed 15 off 8.
Yet, as they finished their innings, it felt as if they still left a few more runs behind. Having scored at 7 runs an over at the end of as many overs, from there on, Punjab’s run-rate gradually increased 10.13 at the end of 15 overs.
With no more specialist batters to follow, the onus was on Livingstone and Shahrukh to ferry them to a total that would be beyond Gujarat’s reach. Instead, both perished, trying to go after Rashid Khan.
It meant, Punjab managed 34 more runs, it still felt the target was not beyond Gujarat’s reach.
With Shubman Gill (96) showing the way, they remained in the hunt right through with Sai Sudarshan (35), Hardik Pandya (27) making key contributions before Tewatia finished it up in his trademark style.
Which brings the question, did Punjab’s approach cost them dear on the night, especially at the end. A few more runs would have given them the cushion, but it is the risk that Punjab are willing to take for playing a brand of cricket that is surely going to make everyone sit and enjoy in their couch.
Brief Scores: Punjab Kings 189/9 in 20 overs (Livingstone 64, Dhawan 35; Rashid 3/35) lost to Gujarat Titans 190/4 in 20 overs (Gill 96, Sudharsan 35; Rabada 2/35)