It was a sudden turn in fortune brought about through misfortune that brought back the smiles on the faces of the Kings XI Punjab team in IPL 3. It came at the cost of the hosts though, the Kolkata Knight Riders in front of their franchisee owners, Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla, and the thousands of fans that turned up at the Eden Gardens.
KKR would not have expected it of the beleaguered KXIP, not the way the latter has been steadily going downhill. And certainly not after Chris Gayle brought new records in the IPL by picking four sixes and thirty-three runs in all in a single over off Ravi Bopara.
But such were the days’ events that even as the KXIP mourned the loss of Shaun Marsh who had just joined the game in the previous match to injure himself at the eleventh hour of the start of this match, they did not even know they had the answer right under their nose.
Mahela Jayawardene was not immune to criticism and while he was expected not to make the cut, the injury to Marsh gave him, in his own words, the opportunity to talk to KXIP captain Kumar Sangakkara and the KXIP coach Tom Moody to let him open the batting. Given that the KXIP were chasing a target of 201, perhaps even they were open to experimenting knowing they had pretty much run out of all ideas.
And even the degree to which the move paid off would have astounded them, in delight of course. Jayawardene took up the challenge in knowledgable faith and outpoured a stream of runs that not only kept the KXIP interested but also, in touch with the KKR’s total at every point, even with the rain threatening in the background and Duckworth and Lewis waiting to have their say.
It was Jayawardene’s perseverance, flamboyance and confidence opening the innings that gave the KXIP the assurance of experience at the top. While Manvinder Bisla did not stay long, Jayawardene was ably supported by the two other men in the dock, Sangakkara and Yuvraj Singh. Combating criticism, personal and on the team front, their cameo knocks were clearly the support cast to the thunderstorm named Jayawardene who simply refused to let up and give in, giving KXIP hope against all odds.
The boat was on rocky waters but a steady hand was all it took. The rest had only to hold up their end as it were as Jayawardene scored his maiden IPL century, 110 runs off just fifty-nine balls as the KXIP won the match with an over and four balls to spare!
But it did not look plausible when the Gayle storm first enveloped the Eden Gardens. Sourav Ganguly was doing his best keeping his end of the bargain with thirty-six runs but it was his opening partner that was clearly the star of the night for the KKR team. Manoj Tiwary followed up well to Ganguly’s partnership with Gayle. But it was Gayle who did the real talking with the bat. His eighty-eight runs left more than one spectator starry eyed as a total of eight sixes left his blade to make holes in the KXIP bowling, struggling to contain the mayhem.
Now they have the opportunity to stage a rare comeback; it will still require a miracle but nothing like a resounding victory on a night like this to get the blood rushing through the veins again.
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