This was a match decided by the barest of bare margins. Two teams couldn’t score two runs off one ball, pushing the match into two Super Overs before two clean hits from Chris Gayle and Mayank Agarwal finally fetched Kings XI Punjab the points they deserved. Nobody merited this win more than Rahul. The first Indian to score 500 runs in three consecutive IPL seasons, he scored a brilliant 77 but a ruthless Mumbai Indians took the match to a Super Over. This time, it required an outstanding piece of wicketkeeping from Rahul to take the match into the second Super Over, the first in the history of the Indian Premier League.
As captain, Rahul did almost everything right on Sunday, be it with his field placements or the bowling changes. Only two Kings XI Punjab bowlers—Glen Maxwell and Mohammed Shami—got their quota of four overs as Rahul didn’t allow Mumbai Indians batsmen to settle down by pressing into service seven bowlers. Shami was crafty upfront while Chris Jordan was economic in his first two overs. Further ratcheting up the pressure was the disciplined slow bowling of Maxwell and Ravi Bishnoi who conceded only 24 runs in the six overs shared between them.
Mumbai’s tenacious batting only compounded their problems. This is the fifth match in a row Rohit Sharma hasn’t hit a fifty. Their overall shot selection was debatable on a night five out of six dismissals fell to catches. Neither was there any plan to consolidate, as evident in the period between the third and 17th overs when only one out of five partnerships lasted more than 10 balls. Barring Quinton de Kock and Krunal Pandya, the other middle order batsmen didn’t wait to attack. The flipside of this belligerence was that their run rate never took a huge beating. Mumbai Indians scored 43 in the powerplay, 74 in the middle overs before raising 59 runs in the final four overs.
Possessing a really deep batting line-up meant by the time of the death overs, Kieron Pollard was armed and ready to provide the finishing touch. The first impetus came in the 18th over that yielded 22 runs. Pollard smoked consecutive sixes off two attempted yorkers from Arshdeep Khurana, over his head and then over mid-on, before two more boundaries from Nathan Coulter-Nile gave Mumbai a massive fillip. Twenty more runs in the final over from Jordan and Kings XI Punjab had to again turn to their opening batsmen to come up with a fitting response.
They did get off to a flying start but Mayank Agarwal was living a charmed life after no one in an empty stadium apart from bowler Trent Boult could hear the edge off his bat in the first over. Jasprit Bumrah, however, broke the opening partnership after inducing Agarwal to play onto his stumps. Chris Gayle looked ominous but Rahul Chahar cleverly slipped in a quicker one that was going away from him as the Jamaican launched into a hoick. It didn’t clear Boult at long-off.
Responsibility tends to weigh heavy on him but Rahul revelled in it, scoring his third consecutive fifty of this IPL. But he couldn’t muster support from his middle order as Mumbai Indians kept chipping away at their batting. The big-hitting Nicholas Pooran flattered to deceive before Glenn Maxwell was caught superbly at first slip by Sharma after he tried to go for a huge heave away from his body. Rahul was finally done in with a near-perfect yorker from Bumrah, leaving KXIP needing 24 runs from 15. The equation winded down to two from one but the match failed to produce an outright winner even after two attempts.