Ashwin’s bowlers defend 143 to do the job for Kings XI Punjab
Liam Plunkett took 3-17 for Delhi Daredevils, but Kings XI Punjab bowlers, led by Ankit Rajpoot’s 3-23, defended 143-8 for a four-run win that moved them to the top of the IPL 2018 points table.
With 180-plus totals chased down easily so far in the league, 144 should have been a walk in the park for Delhi at the Feroz Shah Kotla on Monday April 23. But excellent bowling by Rajpoot, Andrew Tye and Mujeeb Ur Rahman (2-25), along with R Ashwin’s astute captaincy, helped Punjab restrict the home side to 139-8 in 20 overs.
With 21 needed in the last two overs, Ashwin gave Barinder Sran the responsibility of bowling the penultimate over, despite Sran copping plenty of stick earlier. The left-arm seamer bowled a nerveless 19th, giving away just four runs. With 17 to defend in the final over, Mujeeb conceded just 12 to finish the job. This despite a set Shreyas Iyer being at the crease, finishing on a 45-ball 57.
“I had made up my mind that it was going to be Mujeeb who is going to bowl the 20th over,” said Ashwin after the match. “AJ (Tye) was my best bowler of the day, so I thought if I bowled him early and he got the wicket of Shreyas Iyer, the game would be out of their reach.
With five wins out of six games, Punjab now sit on top of the points table and a win like this, defending a low total in a close encounter, reaffirmed Ashwin’s faith in his team.
“If you are serious about going any distance, this is the game we needed to get past,” he said. “One such game where you defend a low score, then you can bank on anybody and everybody in the team to go the distance. That was a clear message I gave to the boys and they responded beautifully.”
Tye has been a revelation. Usually in charge of bowling the tough overs at the start and at the death, the Australian medium pacer has delivered more often than not. “I don’t go out there and try to be funky with things,” he explained.
His 2-25 on Monday took him to the top of the wickets chart. “Feels sensational,” he said, on winning the purple cap. “It is the first time I have had it. I don’t know how long I’ll have it for, but hopefully at the back end of the tournament I’ll still be up there and more importantly, the Kings XI team are up at the top of the table as well.”
Tye is also enjoying bowling under Ashwin’s captaincy. “Ash is not afraid to try something different or do something funky,” he said. “I go up and have a chat with him saying this is what I want to do and he gives me good feedback of what he might be thinking as a bowler of spin. It is something different and it is working well for us.”