IPL 2019: Rahul strikes form as KXIP guns down MI target

K.L. Rahul finally struck form and led Kings XI Punjab to a clinical eight-wicket win in its opening home game against Mumbai Indians.

K.L. Rahul scored an unbeaten 71 in Punjab's successful chase against Mumbai.   -  Sportzpics/BCCI

K.L. Rahul finally broke the shackles, as much in his mind as in his game, and led Kings XI Punjab to a clinical victory in its opening home game here on Saturday — winning by eight wickets with eight balls to spare against Mumbai Indians at the IS Bindra Stadium.

Struggling for form, Rahul first anchored the innings and then got into the act of guiding his team home with an unbeaten 71 – not his best-looking innings but certainly the most effective in a long time. Chasing 177 after Mumbai Indians lost its way towards the end of its innings to manage an under-par 176 for seven, Chris Gayle set the template for the host. He took a while to get going but once he did, the ball kept getting lost in the stands.

KXIP vs MI: Key highlights

Two back-to-back sixes off Mitchell McClenaghan in the third over – both in the last tier of seats beyond midwicket – was the beginning of his assault. Rahul, at the other end, was tentative and cautious but managed to fend off the early jitters. Gayle (40) fell trying to go for one big hit, but found Hardik Pandya at the long-on boundary in the first ball of spin he faced off Krunal Pandya.

Mayank Agarwal was not as fierce but equally destructive – his 43 runs off 21 balls was more about timing and strokes. His 64-run partnership with Rahul turned the game firmly in KXIP’s favour in the middle overs. By the time he fell, snapped up by Krunal off his own bowling, Rahul had inched closer to his 50, which he duly reached with a four to fine leg off Lasith Malinga. The 15th over, from Hardik, turned the game, by giving away 19 runs. Rahul found his strokes and timing back and thereafter it was just a matter of time before KXIP romped home.

Read: Gayle becomes first player to hit 300 IPL sixes

Earlier, Rohit and Quinton de Kock gave Mumbai the perfect start, racing to 50 in five overs before Rohit fell, struck on the pad off Hardus Viljoen that appeared missing the leg stump. It was, but the captain did not see a review and his dismissal put the brakes on scoring.

Yuvraj Singh and de Kock tried to regain control, and succeeded partially, but walked back to the dugout in a space of 10 balls and left Mumbai at least 20 runs short of what it would have wanted.