Captain Glenn Maxwell led from the front with a quickfire knock to fashion a six-wicket win for Kings XI Punjab in their Indian Premier League opener against Rising Pune Supergiant here today. Maxwell made short work of the 164-run target by blasting 44 off just 20 balls as Kings XI cruised to victory with six balls to spare.
His unbeaten 79-run stand with David Miller (30 off 27) took the game away from the opposition in front of a packed Holkar Stadium. Maxwell’s fireworks came after Ben Stokes led Rising Pune Supergiant’s recovery with a blistering 50 off 32 balls, helping his team post 163 for six.
With the win, Kings XI have begun the competition on a promising note after finishing at the bottom in the previous two editions. It was the first loss this season for Pune, who had beaten Mumbai Indians in their tournament opener on Thursday.
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With Kings XI 73 for two in 10 overs and needing another 91 for victory, the match was hanging in balance. Then Maxwell came and ran away with the match with some brutal hitting. The Australian, made captain of the side ahead of established names like Eoin Morgan, hammered four sixes and as many fours to begin his IPL campaign in style.
Miller was mostly a spectator in this match-winning stand with Maxwell, who punished spinners as much as the pacers. The Australian even did not spare Pune’s most impressive bowler Imran Tahir, hitting him for consecutive sixes in the 16th over that virtually sealed the match in Kings XI’s favour.
Earlier, after the fall of the top order that left Pune at 49 for three in the ninth over, Stokes showed why he commanded a Rs 14.5 crore price at the auction. He got good support from Manoj Tiwary (40 off 23).
Tiwary and Daniel Christian, who both remained unbeaten, took Mohit and Sandeep Sharma to the cleaners at the end of the innings, collecting 30 off the last 12 balls. It appeared to be a tricky surface to bat on after Kings XI opted to field.
Sandeep castled Mayank Agarwal with a sharp inswinger though the shot selection of the opener so early on in the innings was questionable. It was a memorable IPL debut for Tamil Nadu pacer T Natarajan, who took just two balls to strike, having the seasoned Ajinkya Rahane (19) holed out at deep cover.
The onus was on in-form captain Steven Smith (26) to bail his team out of trouble. He hung around for a while before he mistimed one to be caught at deep square leg. Soon another experienced batsman, M S Dhoni, departed and Pune were down to 71 for four in the 12th over.
Stokes was joined by Tiwary and together they scored 61 off 37 balls to set up a competitive total. The Englishman slammed three sixes and couple of fours in his blazing knock.
Tiwary was not far behind with three fours and two sixes and ended up having a better strike rate than Stokes. Christian hammered Sandeep for couple of fours and a maximum in the 20th over to push the score beyond 150.