The owners of Kings XI Punjab take offence at any suggestions their side might be the party-poopers of this Indian Premier League (IPL) season, but that is exactly what the basement side are becoming in the final furlongs of the league. Out of the reckoning for a place in the semi-finals after eight defeats in the first 10 games, the Kings have launched a campaign to regain their lost pride.
Their first victims were the Mumbai Indians, and the Delhi Daredevils joined the casualty list yesterday after a seven-wicket loss. "We ain't spoiling anybody's party, that's not fair," said a delighted Preity Zinta, the co-owner of the Kings XI, in a post-match television interview. "We're just making our own party. I feel really bad when people say you are spoiling everyone's party." As the Kings celebrated, Gautam Gambhir, the Delhi captain, reflected on a poor batting performance that sealed the fate of the match.
The Daredevils imploded spectacularly after a swift start, losing their last nine wickets for 79 runs in 15.3 overs on a pitch with inconsistent bounce. They slipped from a healthy 39 for one in the fourth over to be bowled out for 111. "We did not bat well and the result is in front of us," said Gambhir in the post-match television interview. "Two run-outs in two overs and we ended up getting only 111.
"We've just not been up to the mark. We need to pull our socks up and try to win the next two. That's what we are looking forward to." Delhi's slide started with the first ball of the second over when Irfan Pathan had Virender Sehwag smash a ball straight to Reetinder Singh Sodhi at midwicket for a first-ball duck. There was more trouble in the fourth over when Gautam Gambhir (26) was run out for the third consecutive time after being sent back by David Warner.
"Three-in-a-row for me now," said Gambhir. "I've never had this kind of an experience, especially when I have been hitting the ball well." Two balls later Warner, the Australia Twenty20 opener (six) was himself a victim of a mix-up with Paul Collingwood, when he failed to regain his crease after being sent back by the Englishman. Those two mishaps saw the wheels coming off the Daredevil innings. Runs dried up and wickets kept tumbling. Collingwood (four) was caught in front off Piyush Chawla's top-spinner and Daniel Vettori (two) suffered the same fate off a googly.
Dinesh Karthik, the last of Delhi's recognised batsmen, was next to go, heaving Pathan to Mahela Jayawardene. The scoreboard read a sorry 76 for six from 13.2 overs at that moment and the end was nigh. "I really enjoyed bowling on this track," said man-of-the-match Piyush Chawla, Punjab's most successful bowler with two for 16, in the mid-match television interview. "The wicket was slow and it was turning from the first ball, so it was good fun.
"After the last game [the win over Mumbai], the morale inside the team is quite high and the way our team played was really nice." * Compiled by Ahmed Rizvi