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Saha, Vohra star as Kings XI Punjab go on top

HYDERABAD: The prospect of facing Kings XI Punjab means extensive research on Glenn Maxwell. Perhaps a few hours spent decoding David Miller. But the winning push, in Hyderabad, came from two men who fly well under the radar.
Wriddhiman Saha, usually charged with steadying a top-order wobble, exploded to make 54 off 26 and Manan Vohra, who was inked into the Kings XI Punjab for the first time this season, made 47 off 20. Sunrisers Hyderabad had amassed 205 but came in second best. The Powerplay provides a crucial opportunity when chasing a big total. Dale Steyn and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, though, aren’t the most straightforward bowlers to cart around. But that was what happened and the 86 for 1 that Saha and Vohra drove Kings XI to missed out on the overall IPL record for most runs in the first six overs by just one run.
Kings XI needed the audacious foundation, though. Only 24 runs came between the 13th and 17th overs. Sunrisers managed to keep Maxwell quiet for an over and dismissed him in the next. Miller wasn’t managing his usual pace and Sunrisers’ attack is well versed in flummoxing strong batting line-ups. Steyn was enlisted with the 18th over, but his extra pace proved just what George Bailey needed to hike his team back to the top of the table.
It was an unmitigated assault, and each shot carried the imprint of the dressing room’s backing. Vohra faced eight balls from Steyn and smashed 20 runs, including two thumping sixes over midwicket. Saha deposited the second ball he faced from the South African quick into the same region with consummate authority. Both players were unafraid to go aerial and were quite efficient when they did. The result was Steyn, Sunrisers best hope, recorded his worst T20 figures - 0 for 51.
Shikhar Dhawan was confident of his top orders’s aptitude at the toss. His concerns lay with the middle order and their ability to accelerate. Those were laid to rest courtesy a Naman Ojha-inspired bludgeoning. A strong bottom hand dominated most of his shots, so much that drives through the cover region seemed shoveled. Sunrisers have been searching for an Indian batsman to support their big-name top order and his 79 off 36 has given a strong message.
He was brutal against the spinners and Sandeep Sharma’s medium pace enabled him to drive Sunrisers past the 200-mark. The 26 runs that came in the 19th over meant Sandeep’s 1 for 65 became the joint second worst figures in IPL.
The early goings were markedly subdued though, with Dhawan stumbling around for form. He was leaping down the track only to find the inside edge. When he stayed deep in his crease, he couldn’t pierce the gap on the off side. The fifth over provided ample relief and more pertinently, restored Dhawan’s fluency. Sandeep’s indiscipline - he offered two free hits - was punished with a four and a six. Having succumbed to the 30s on four previous occasions, he looked set to become the first Sunrisers captain to make a half-century but a flick off the hips found short fine leg.
David Warner strode in at No. 4 and ensured the foundation laid by the openers was taken advantage of. He contributed 44 to an 81-run stand for the third wicket that built a total fit to challenge most teams. But Kings XI’s batting might was ruthlessly effective.
Brief scores:
Kings XI Punjab 211-4 (W Saha 54, M Vohra 47, G Maxwell 43; A Mishra 1-32, B Kumar 1-38) beat Sunrisers Hyderabad 205-5 (N Ojha 79, S Dhawan 45, R Dhawan 2-42, S Sharma 1-31) by 6 wickets.

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