Jonny Bairstow, Liam Livingstone go balle balle for Punjab Kings against RCB

Express News Service

BENGALURU: 8, 12, 12, 9, 6, 32, 1 and 56.

These numbers of Jonny Bairstow in his first eight matches for the Punjab Kings does not draw a great picture. Even his half-century in the last game against Rajasthan Royals missed that dangerous Englishman, who can tear apart bowling attacks. But then when it comes to such players, it is just a matter of time. You never know when it is their day to turn on the heat.

Teams in the IPL auction were also aware of his consistent performances in the last few editions and his match-winning abilities. For instance, he has scored 248 (in 7 matches, IPL 2021), 345 (11, 2020), 445 (10, 2019). No wonder, three teams, including Delhi Capitals, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Punjab Kings battled it out for his signature, and was eventually snapped by the latter for Rs 6.75 crore.

Even when his performances were not up to the mark initially, the management had faith in his ability. They were looking at ways to get back to his scoring ways, moving him to number five from three as well. It did not work. It was then they took a strong call to give him his favoured position — opener. That was not easy with Shikhar Dhawan and Mayank Agarwal, successful openers in the IPL, in that slot. The captain decided to move down the order and asked Bairstow to open alongside Dhawan. It worked.

The 32-year-old, who opened for the first time in the last game, scored a half-century to give him the confidence.

The opener then came up with a sensational 29-ball 66 to play an important role in helping Punjab score 209/9 against Royal Challengers Bangalore in Mumbai on Friday.  Fellow countryman Liam Livingstone applied the finishing touches with a 42-ball 70 to power their team to a big score.

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Such was the dominance of the two Englishmen that Harshal Patel’s four-wicket haul remained in the backdrop. Punjab won the match by 54 runs as RCB just managed 155/9 in 20 overs.

However, this innings from Livingstone does not come as a big surprise. The six-hitting machine has been in incredible touch this season as was witnessed in his fourth half-century of the season on Friday. He was at his menacing best, dealing in sixes (four in number). In fact, he was harsh on Josh Hazlewood, who was smashed for 24 runs in the penultimate over.

The Australian, who conceded 64 runs from his 4 overs, was also punished badly by Bairstow. The opener got going with a 22-run over in the second over. Bairstow was on top of his game, looking to put bowlers on the back foot, and he achieved his objective. RCB could not even understand what hit them.

He was finally dismissed by Shahbaz Ahmed in the 10th over, but the assault did not stop as Livingstone took over from there and put Punjab in a solid position before the break.

If RCB had any chance of chasing down the score, they needed either Virat Kohli, Glenn Maxwell or Faf Du Plessis to score big, they just managed 20, 35 and 10 respectively.  And when Dinesh Karthik, their finisher, was out for 11, their chance of winning the game ended then and there in the 15th over.