Mujeeb denies Iyer in dramatic last-ball win for Kings XI
Kings XI Punjab 143 for 8 (Nair 34, Plunkett 3-17, Boult 2-21) beat Delhi Daredevils 139 for 8 (Iyer 57, Rajpoot 2-23, Mujeeb 2-25) by four runs. Delhi Daredevils rung in five changes, limited a Chris Gayle-less Kings XI Punjab batting line-up to 143 for 8, but they ultimately lost a last-ball thriller and remained rooted to the bottom of the points table. That it was a last-ball thriller was down to some sloppy batting and the brilliance of 17-year-old mystery spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Shreyas Iyer. Despite wickets tumbling around him in the chase, Iyer kept the scorecard ticking and took the game deep, Dhoni style. It was down to one man v another: Mujeeb v Iyer, with the equation reading 17 off six balls.
The first ball was a quick fizzer, which cramped Iyer for room and hit his thigh pad. Iyer then stood still against the second ball – a short dart outside off – and flat-batted it over Mujeeb’s head for a six. He hit the third to long-off, refused the single, and hoicked the fourth to deep midwicket for two to retain the strike and narrow the equation to nine off two balls. Iyer then ventured down the track and squirted a four to the right of short fine leg to leave Daredevils needing five off the last ball. Mujeeb speared it flat and wide outside off, and Iyer could only drag a catch to long-off. Gautam Gambhir, who was looking forward to his homecoming in Feroz Shah Kotla as Delhi Daredevils captain, was literally left gobsmacked, while Kings XI Punjab found a new hero in Mujeeb and displaced Chennai Super Kings from the top of the table.
Before Monday, Kings XI were the fastest starters in IPL 2018, going at 10.67 runs an over in the Powerplay. They weren’t quite fast enough against the pace as well as the change of pace of IPL debutant Liam Plunkett and Madhya Pradesh quick Avesh Khan, who had travelled to South Africa as a net bowler and was making his debut for Daredevils. That Kings XI were missing the in-form Gayle, who had “pulled up sore,” according to captain R Ashwin, did not help their cause either. Aaron Finch, who was bumped to the top, was undone by the raw pace of Avesh: a 148.7kph lifter forced him to splice a catch to cover.
KL Rahul, on the other hand, worked the extra pace and bounce to his advantage. He swiftly swivelled on the back foot and hooked a flat six over fine leg. It was the change of pace from Plunkett that done him in. He rolled his fingers across an offcutter and Rahul skewing a catch to short fine leg, where Avesh clung onto a low catch. No Gayle, Rahul and Finch gone. So, Kings XI weren’t unstoppable after all in the Powerplay. Plunkett then proceeded to bowl Mayank Agarwal for 21 off 16 balls with a 146kph rocket; by then, Kings XI were 60 for 3 in the eighth over.
Going 32 balls without a boundary is just inexcusable in T20s, especially after a rickety start. Yuvraj Singh struggled against every style of bowling: pace, change of pace, offspin, legspin. He crawled to 14 off 17 balls before Avesh returned and had Yuvraj under-edging a pull behind to Rishabh Pant. Karun Nair, who had a Smart strike rate of 111.89 outside the Powerplay in the IPL, could not force the pace either. Against Amit Mishra, Glenn Maxwell and Rahul Tewatia, Nair only managed a run-a-ball 15. So, Nair decided to make up for it against pace. Plunkett, however, did not offer pace: another offcutter dismissed another Karnataka batsman.
David Miller was dropped twice – on 6 by Maxwell at cover and on 10 by Prithvi Shaw at point – but he, too, could not find a way past Daredevils’ bowlers with the mighty six off Mishra being an aberration. Kings XI, eventually, lost four wickets in their last four wickets while scoring just 27 runs.
If Daredevils had thought they were in for a straightforward chase, they were wrong. Ankit Rajpoot, who had also travelled to South Africa as a net bowler with Avesh, hit the pitch and the splice hard. He bowled an uninterrupted four-over spell with the new ball and returned 2 for 23 with 15 dots to make light work of Daredevils’ top order. He skidded one through the defences of Shaw to knock back his off stump for 22 off 10 balls before having Maxwell top-edging an offcutter to deep square leg.
Gambhir’s troubles against pace continued: since his 55 in Daredevils’ first meeting against Kings XI this season, he has been dismissed four times by back-of-a-length or short-of-a-length deliveries from pacers this season. On Monday, he hopped across off against a back-of-a-length ball from Andrew Tye and chipped a leading edge to mid-off to leave his team at 42 for 3 in the six over.
A wobble turned into a full-blown collapse when Mujeeb stormed through the defences of Rishabh Pant with a front-of-the-hand slider and Christian was run out. The variations of Mujeeb and Ashwin sent the asking rate ballooning past 10. Rahul Tewatia and Iyer pricked it briefly before Mujeeb returned for the final over to put it beyond the reach of Daredevils.