Kings XI Punjab had a topsy-turvy campaign which saw them rise to the top of the table and stake a claim for a top two finish before losing their touch and finally failing to qualify after a streak of losses. They finished seventh in the table but the competition was a lot more intense than that number suggests. Here is a look at how the things panned out for the Sher-e-Punjab in a nail-biter of a season.
The Kings XI Punjab campaign had a dream start as they won 5 of the first 6 games they played. They were absolutely dominant at their first home venue at the Punjab Cricket Association IS Bindra Stadium in Mohali and capped off an unbeaten run there.
One of the highlights of their time in Mohali was the first century of IPL 11, which was scored by the Universe Boss Chris Gayle. Gayle looked like a man with a purpose throughout the match and ensured he rotated the strike along with hitting 11 massive sixes. The knock helped KXIP amass 197 runs and beat an in-form Sunrisers Hyderabad, who have made a reputation for themselves as the best bowling unit in this IPL season.
The team also had a successful trip to Eden Gardens, Kolkata where they beat the home team by a massive 9 wicket margin in a match, and where Chris Gayle and Lokesh Rahul took the KKR bowlers apart. They then carried that form to the Kotla, where they edged out Delhi Daredevils by 4 runs.
Even in the game they lost against Sunrisers while touring, the Kings showed why they were such a tough side this season. Ankit Rajpoot was the hero is the match, as he nipped the ball around and got the Hyderabad batsmen in all kinds of trouble. He finished with figures of 5/14, the best in Season 11 of the IPL at the time.
A break of 8 days during, during which time KXIP switched to their second home venue at the Holkar Cricket Stadium in Indore, proved costly for the Kings as they immediately lost their next game to Mumbai Indians.
There was some respite in the coming game as they managed to beat Rajasthan Royals thanks to a brilliant knock of 84 by Rahul. The opener’s form looked ominous and he seemed to be the man who the team could depend on in crunch situations.
Another star for the Kings was the young Afghani mystery spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman. His managed to extract turn and bounce on just about any surface. The result was that he was not just extremely economical, finishing his season with an economy rate of 6.99, but he also picked up wickets at regular intervals.
He had the uncanny ability to bowl a peach when the team most required it the most to dismiss the big guns of the opposition. His delivery that cleaned up Royal Challengers Bangalore’s captain Virat Kohli would make any spinner proud, and he proved throughout that he always had an additional weapon in his armoury than the opposition expected.
As the team entered the last phase of their campaign, things looked poised for a Rahul and Mujeeb special.
So near yet so far
Things started going downhill after the Rajasthan Royals win in Match 38. The Kings slipped to five straight losses and lost the services of mystery spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman to an injury.
Luckily for the team, this was the time Aussie pacer Andrew Tye hit his stride. He took 3 four-wicket hauls in the season and ended the campaign as the highest wicket taker with 24 wickets, head-and-shoulders above the next in line.
Since a number of teams were tied on 12 points, it all came down to the final day where Delhi Daredevils had to beat Mumbai Indians and KXIP had to win their match by a healthy run rate.
Mumbai’s loss made things very interesting but another slump in the batting order gave KXIP too few to defend as they needed to restrict Chennai Super Kings to under a hundred runs to make it through to the Playoffs.
They managed to pick up early wickets but Captain Cool MS Dhoni ensured that his team sailed through with some smart on-the-feet thinking. The Kings eventually had to be settle for a 7th place finish but not before giving a tough fight to every team in the competition.
Coach Brad Hodge’s description of the team’s performance after the CSK match sums up the team’s season perfectly.
“We showed a great fighting spirit out there, but we didn’t get over the line.”
With a lot of positives coming from this season, the Kings will have a lot to draw from for their campaign in the next season. They have the perfect base built to launch from and as the team now has the experience of playing together, they are sure to come back with an even louder roar, in a quest to claim the VIVO IPL 2019 trophy.