x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

All is well with Punjab as Maxwell and Miller seal win against Chennai

The Australian missed out on a century but his 95 runs, along with Miller's unbeaten half-century, ensured Kings XI scaled a mighty peak of a target in a hot first game of Abu Dhabi's double-header.

Glenn Maxwell's knock that followed ensured Brendon McCullum's knock went in vain after his explosive half-century took Chennai Super Kings past the 200-mark. Ravindranath K / The National
Glenn Maxwell's knock that followed ensured Brendon McCullum's knock went in vain after his explosive half-century took Chennai Super Kings past the 200-mark. Ravindranath K / The National

Chennai 205-4 (20 ov)

Punjab 206-4 (18.5 ov)

Toss: Chennai, chose to bat

Chennai: McCullum 67; Smith 66; Balaji 2-43

Punjab: Maxwell 95, Miller 54 n.o; Ashwin 2-41

Man of the match: Glenn Maxwell (Punjab)

ABU DHABI // Very few of the world’s most explosive batsmen are to be found outside of the Chennai Super Kings. The Indian Premier League’s (IPL) preeminent franchise has been hoarding them. Unfortunately for them, one of the few who does not wear their yellow uniform surfaced on Friday at the Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

Glenn Maxwell has been setting the world alight recently and did so again, leading a monumental chase of 206.

It was an extraordinary hand, made slightly less extraordinary only by the knowledge that he has done it repeatedly.

His 43-ball 95 was so outstanding, it trumped earlier daredevilry from Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Smith, Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni. It prompted a query to his captain, George Bailey, about whether he is the format’s best batsman in the world.

Bailey played that down but acknowledged his form.

“I think Maxwell is in great touch and what we are getting from him is consistency,” he said. “That’s probably the greatest trait in a T20 batsman. His explosiveness is unbelievable. When he comes off, you’ll win a lot of games.”

It might be remembered in time as a blur of reverse hits. He reverse swept Ravi Ashwin to distraction, the spinner conceding regular leg-side wides. There were plenty of other wrong-handed shots as well.

But what stood out were the number of conventional ones; the cover drives, going inside out, and a steady picking of gaps in a large outfield.

As explosive as it was, so, too, was it intelligent.

The moment the chase changed came in the 13th over. Maxwell had already reached a 25-ball fifty in the previous over.

Pawan Negi was the poor soul whose misfortune it was to be on the receiving end.

Maxwell pulled a four and six over wide long-on, before sweeping the third ball for another boundary.

Negi was rattled into bowling a wide, and when he got his line right, Maxwell drove him sweetly through extra covers for another boundary. Twenty-two came off the over.

He was dropped the next over, on 77, at the boundary and that was the second unforgivable lapse; in the 10th, Ashish Nehra had dropped a dolly when Maxwell was on just 37.

David Miller kept Maxwell quiet company in a 115-run stand. But once Maxwell went, he took over. He was 32 off 28 balls then, but reached fifty after facing just four more balls. That flurry sealed the game.

It overshadowed some powerhouse batting earlier. Chennai have accumulated a scary batting order this season: McCullum, Smith, Raina, Dhoni, Dwayne Bravo, Jadeja, Faf du Plessis.

It seemed to be working, too, as Chennai stormed their way to 205. McCullum and Smith were responsible, opening with a 123-run partnership in less than 13 overs.

When Dhoni, Raina and Bravo finished strongly, it seemed they had enough. But for all their batting recruitment, maybe they forgot to bolster their bowling. Actually, they should have bought Maxwell at auction, too.

“We know we can be better than that and will have to be,” McCullum said later. “We’ll get better as tournament goes on. Today was good in parts, and not so good in other parts.”


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