In the battle of the former CSK players, Brendon McCullum, Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja trumped MS Dhoni, Faf Du Plessis and R Ashwin as the Gujarat Lions romped to a seven-wicket victory over the Rising Pune Supergiants in an IPL 2016 match in Rajkot.
Choosing to bat first, RPS rather lost their way in the middle after a splendid start, eventually finishing on 163/5 in their 20 overs. The Gujarat Lions, riding on scorchers from Aaron Finch and Brendon McCullum, eased to the target in 18 overs.
When defending a makeable total, the only way to make a fist of it is by getting the explosive openers of the Gujarat Lions out early. So, when Finch and McCullum went into tonk-town from the off to put on 85 runs in 8.3 overs for the first wicket, the match was as good as over.
McCullum was his usual brutal self, going gung-ho often enough, while Finch, coming off a man of the match performance in the win over the Kings XI Punjab earlier this week, was a class apart again, punishing any and every bad delivery, while creaming a few of the good ones as well.
Needing to only go at eight runs an over, the Gujarat Lions openers went at around 10, forcing Dhoni to bring on the spinners early. R Ashwin (4-0-26-0) was given the ball in the fifth over, and while the offspinner, who bowled just one over in the entire match against the Mumbai Indians, did pretty well to keep it at four runs, his namesake Murugan Ashwin did not fare as well, as Finch smashed the legspinner for 19 runs.
With momentum firmly on the Lions' side and the crowd behind them to boot, the Rajkot franchise were hunky dory from there, even if Finch (50, 36b, 7x4, 2x6) fell in the ninth over. McCullum (49, 31b, 3x4, 3x6) was dismissed one run short of his half-century, but skipper Raina (24, 24b, 1x4), Dwayne Bravo (22, 10b, 3x4, 1x6), who did not have as much fun with the ball in this match, and Ravindra Jadeja saw their team through.
Earlier, RPS threw away a golden chance to post a massive total, something nearing 200, by just losing wickets at the wrong time. After Ajinkya Rahane and Faf Du Plessis got the Rising Pune Supergiants off to a decent start, the latter and Kevin Pietersen put on a splendid 86-run partnership, even if that alliance tapered off a little bit towards the second half after a blistering start.
Once Pietersen (37, 31b, 2x4, 1x6) fell in the final ball of the 14th over, RPS just kept losing wickets, with Du Plessis (69, 43b, 5x4, 4x6), Steve Smith and Mitchell Marsh all falling, which in turn sucked the momentum out of the innings, with Dhoni's 22 (10b, 2x4, 1x6) taking his team past the 160-mark, but not to a winning total.