In modern cricket, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Virat Kohli and George Bailey are regarded as the best chasers of the game. They are regarded as cool, calculated and devastating in the death overs and never burdened by targets. But in the Indian Premier League, Kings XI Punjab will be regarded as the best chasers as a 'team'. Monday's four-wicket win against Delhi Daredevils at Feroz Shah Kotla was a classic example of how Kings XI Punjab held their nerves and chased down Delhi's 164 for 7 with just two balls to spare.
It wasn't a Glenn Maxwell or a David Miller or a Bailey who led Kings XI Punjab's victory march, but it was 20-year-old Gujarat-born Akshar Rajeshbhai Patel, who scored an unbeaten 42 off 35 balls, after Punjab lost their top four for less than 100 on the board in the 10th over. Patel, deservingly, was the Man of the Match for his career-best IPL innings. (Also read: Each win motivates KXIP further, says Bailey)
Kings XI Punjab thus became the first team to qualify for the playoffs this season. It was their second instance to make this grade, the first being in 2008 IPL. And interestingly, Punjab have won all five games while chasing this year -- one each versus Delhi, Rajasthan, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore.
Kings XI Punjab has really worked like a team. Complimenting Patel was medium-pacer-batsman Sandeep Sharma. The 21-year-old Patiala lad took three for 35 to take his tally to 17 wickets, the third highest in IPL 2014. Only two bowlers have taken more wickets than Sharma -- Bhuvneshwar Kumar of Sunrisers Hyderabad (18) and Chennai Super Kings' Mohit Sharma (18). (Match report)
Sharma has raced to 25 wickets (ave.16.16) in 13 matches -- the quickest by a bowler to this milestone in IPL. His bowling average is the best by a Punjab bowler in IPL overall (minimum qualification: 250 balls).
(with inputs from Rajesh Kumar)