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Stoinis keeps Punjab alive with win

Wisden India logo Wisden India 07-05-2016
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Marcus Stoinis turned in a fine all-round performance, exactly the sort needed to lift a struggling team as Kings XI Punjab kept their Indian Premier League 2016 campaign alive with a nine-run win over Delhi Daredevils on Saturday (May 7). Stoinis’s half-century had played its part in driving Punjab to 181 for 5 at the PCA Stadium in Mohali, but his more telling contributions came in the second half. Taken for 19 runs in his first 10 balls, Stoinis used clever changes of pace to great effect in returning eventual figures of 3 for 40. Each of the three batsmen he scalped were big wickets – Quinton de Kock, Sanju Samson and Sam Billings. The first two broke partnerships at vital times and got rid of form batsmen, the last ensured that the match swung firmly Punjab’s way.

Eventually, in spite of de Kock’s half-century and Samson’s good hand, Delhi, welcoming Zaheer Khan back as captain, lost their way from 121 for 1 in 13.3 overs to finish on 172 for 5.

De Kock, who was back in the XI along with Chris Morris, Zaheer and Shahbaz Nadeem, had got Delhi’s chase off to the perfect start. After an initially quiet period, Delhi took 39 runs in three overs, de Kock scoring 32 off those in just 13 balls, distributing punishment equally to Stoinis, Axar Patel and KC Cariappa. De Kock was placing the ball at will, and even swung a couple over the midwicket fence, silencing a small but vocal crowd to rocket Delhi along. His dismissal came against the run of play, when he offered a dolly to point after not reading Stoinis’s slower ball. But he had done his job and the platform of 70 in 7.5 overs was ideal for a deep batting line-up to build on. De Kock’s 52 had come off 30 balls – and in a match where three other batsmen got to the same score – his was the fastest, beating Wriddhiman Saha (33) and Stoinis (44).

Sanju Samson had been on 15 off 17 when de Kock was dismissed, but took over the mantle of keeping things moving thereafter, unfurling some gorgeous drives and flicks, and even the good old-fashioned swats. He had taken Stoinis for consecutive fours but an attempt to go two better resulted in a skier to long-on and Samson had to depart for 49 off 35, Stoinis making the second of his key strikes. When Samson went, Delhi needed 61 runs off 6.2 overs, an achievable task.

However, Mohit Sharma tilted the scales back with a wonderful 15th over that went for only four runs and suddenly, Delhi’s array of in-form batsmen and big-hitters couldn’t put bat to ball cleanly, or often enough. The mounting asking rate consumed Karun Nair, and Stoinis’s last over brought Sam Billings’s downfall, as the match slipped further away from Delhi. Billings, impressive in the limited opportunities he had got so far, couldn’t read Stoinis at all and ended up gloving a slower bouncer to Saha. When Carlos Brathwaite fell in the next over, the writing was on the wall for Delhi, even with Morris still there.

Morris’s wonderful effort with the ball had fetched him 2 for 30, but 28 off the last two overs against bowlers who were nailing yorkers as well as he had was an impossible task.

Earlier, Saha’s sparkling half-century, the first of his IPL season, was the bedrock of Punjab putting up an above-par score. While Stoinis had built steadily at the top of the order it was Saha’s fireworks that really lifted the home side.

On being put in, M Vijay began with his customary elegance, finding the fence regularly. Zaheer, as always, took great care to get the field placements precise, but you can’t set a perfect field for a bad ball and Vijay ensured that whenever the bowlers erred in line or length, he stroked it in the gaps. Vijay’s fluency was instrumental in Punjab not dawdling through the PowerPlay overs, but he fell in the sixth over for 25 off 16 when looking good for more, done in by the combination of a Morris shorter one that he didn’t quite get on top of and a diving Brathwaite inside the circle at midwicket, leaving the team 45 for 1.

Hashim Amla, on IPL debut, stayed for only five balls, in which there were three run-out chances. Off his first and third balls, reprieves were earned with the bowlers – Morris and Nadeem – not able to collect cleanly to throw down the stumps, reprieving Stoinis first and Amla second. But the South African’s luck ran out soon after, when having cut to Zaheer at point, he slipped while trying to get back in his crease and a direct hit caught him short.

But Amla’s fall brought about Punjab’s best batting phase, Stoinis and Saha putting on 58 off 41 balls to set the base, and then Saha and Glenn Maxwell teeing off 46 in just 25 balls to accelerate. Stoinis, initially more accumulating than cutting loose, found his bearings with two superb straight sixes, once off Nadeem and once off Brathwaite, while Saha’s timing was on from the start. While Stoinis also grew in confidence, Saha kept busy with good placement, ensuring a ticking over score even when the boundaries weren’t coming. Stoinis fell after completing his fifty, done in by Zaheer’s variations and only finding Samson at long-on, but Maxwell swung his bat while Saha started finding the boundary with more regularity – even taking Zaheer for three consecutive fours in the 16th over.

Punjab would have fancied getting a lot more after the Saha-Maxwell stand, but Morris was superb at the death. Both men fell off consecutive balls, Maxwell castled by Morris and Saha caught off Mohammed Shami for 52 off 33. But David Miller and Axar connected well to take 29 runs off the last 11 balls and push Punjab over the 180-run mark.

In the end, it turned out to be enough.

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