Pune: Gujarat Lions sneaked a three-wicket win over Rising Pune Supergiants at Pune on Friday and extended their lead at the top of the table. Steven Smith guided Pune to a daunting total of 195, but Gujarat rode on another excellent partnership between Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith to chase it down.
Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum have become a dangerous pair ever since joining forces during the 6-wicket win over Royal Challengers Bangalore. They have formed partnerships of 47 and 112 in the last two games, and the duo made the 196-run target, set by Pune, look easy on the night.
In the third over, McCullum demolished Albie Morkel as he hit him for 24 runs in six deliveries. It started with a square cut and ended with a lofted shot over the bowler's head off a low full toss. After that one over, the required run rate dropped from 10.38 to 9.58 and it was a sign of things to come.
Smith was not to be left far behind, as the West Indian matched McCullum blow for blow. In the sixth over, Smith got a lifeline as Thisara Perera dropped him at midwicket off Ravichandran Ashwin's bowling. It was a difficult opportunity, but one which proved to be a crucial one in the end.
Eventually, Rajat Bhatia provided MS Dhoni with the breakthrough he was so desperately searching for. Brendon McCullum's blazing knock of 43 came to an end when his attempted slog sweep induced a top edge, and Morkel completed the formality.
However, that wicket did not slow down Smith at the other end though, as in the next delivery he powered one through the deep midwicket fence to bring up his half century, from just 28 deliveries. Gujarat brought up their 100 at the end of the 9th over and they were cruising to the target at this point.
However, the complexion of the match changed dramatically in the 11th over, when Smith was dismissed by Perera. The West Indian dragged a full ball on to his stumps, and all of a sudden the target began to look formidable once again.
MS Dhoni, finally, found the opening he was looking for and he is a master at exploiting them. Suresh Raina and Dinesh Karthik failed to maintain the momentum their predecessors had set, and the required run rate kept rising ominously. But eventually Raina and Karthik found their range and the duo formed a crucial 51-run partnership to take their team closer to the target.
A flurry of wickets, including the dismissals of Karthik and Raina, saw some panic set into the Gujarat camp towards the end, but birthday boy James Faulkner hit the winning runs in the end as Gujarat extended their lead to four points at the top of the table.
Earlier, Gujarat Lions won the toss and opted to bowl first. Openers had scored 429 runs in only 12 innings for RPSG before this game, while the rest of the batsmen have contributed 394 in 29 innings, so the formula was simple for Dhoni’s men. Build a good opening partnership and have a big total on the board.
But the manual was thrown out of the window when Saurabh Tiwary, opening the innings with Ajinkya Rahane, was caught short off his crease in the third over as Raina broke the stumps. But Steve Smith, who has been woefully out of form in the tournament, came out all guns blazing and upped the run-rate with some smart strokeplay.
Rahane at the other end did what he has been doing for Pune all season anchored one end and yet maintained the run-rate with timely boundaries. But amidst the blossoming partnership between Smith and Rahane, Raina introduced a left-arm spinner, whose action reminded one of the unique Paul Adams. Shivil Kaushik was playing in his first IPL game and looked to have had his first IPL wicket as Steve Smith played the ball onto the stumps in the tenth over.
After over-joyous celebrations, Kaushik and co were sent crashing back to earth when replays showed the bowler overstepping. Smith launched a six off the following free hit and the partnership continued to grow strong. But soon after racking up 100 runs among them, the duo had a brief communication breakdown and that was enough for Gujarat Lions to break the partnership. DJ Bravo’s direct hit sent Rahane back and brought Dhoni to the crease.
The Indian captain looked in excellent nick from the start and was at his vintage best hitting back to back sixes off Shivil Kaushik. Smith at the other end continued to manufacture some delightful shots, playing at a strike-rate bordering 200 throughout the innings. The inevitable century finally came in the last over as Smith found the fence for the 13th time on the night. This was Smith’s first ever century in T20 cricket and Pune rode on his shoulders to post a massive 195 on the board.
Brief Scores: Rising Pune Supergiants 195/3 in 20 overs (Steven Smith 101(54), Ajinkya Rahane 53(45); Dwayne Bravo 1/40) lost to Gujarat Lions 196/7 in 20 overs (Dwayne Smith 63(37), Brendon McCullum 43(22); Ashok Dinda 2/40, Rajat Bhatia 1/26)