The Rising Pune Supergiants made a perfect start on their IPL debut, thumping the champions Mumbai Indians, and the Gujarat Lions took a leaf out of that winning book, by easing past the Kings XI Punjab in Mohali. With a power-packed bowling and batting lineup, the Suresh Raina-led team showed they are a force to reckon with, courtesy a strong all-round performance in Match 3 of IPL 2016
After asking Kings XI Punjab to bat first, it all looked like going pear-shaped for the Gujarat Lions, as Murali Vijay and Manan Bohra gave the home team a quick start, putting on 78 runs for the first wicket. However, a bunch of wickets from Ravindra Jadeja and Dwayne Bravo turned the first innings around, and the Kings XI Punjab, on a nice batting wicket, could only manage 161/6.
In reply, Aaron Finch took charge from the start, making light of Brendon McCullum's early dismissal to take the Lions to a comfortable five-wicket win with 14 balls to spare.
The first over of the chase did not go according to plan for the Gujarat Lions, as Sandeep Sharma conceded just a single run, while picking up what looked like being the crucial wicket of McCullum, who was brilliantly stumped by Wriddhiman Saha, whose decision to stand up to the new-ball bowler worked like a charm.
However, once that wicket fell, there was only one team in it, as Finch led the charge in style, playing some ridiculously-good shots, timing the ball to perfection quite often and always finding the gaps even when the ball did not come off the meat of the bat.
Finch and Suresh Raina (20, 9b, 1x4, 2x6) put on 51 runs together in just 4.3 overs, before the Australian teamed up with Dinesh Karthik for 65 quick runs, after the skipper fell to Marcus Stoinis. Once Finch (74, 47b, 12x4) was dismissed, by the leg-spinner Pardeep Sahu – stumped by Saha again – the Gujarat Lions only needed 45 runs from eight overs. Karthik (41, 26b, 7x4) ensured those runs would be knocked down easily.
Earlier, it was a tale of two halves in the first innings for the Kings XI Punjab, as the home side put themselves in a strong position after the first ten overs, before losing wickets at the wrong time, which sucked out the momentum.
Vijay and Vohra gave KXIP the early advantage, scoring 52 runs in the Powerplay, and while Vohra (38, 23b, 4x4, 2x6) fell in the ninth over, David Miller's team were still in complete control at 87/1 at the halfway mark of the first innings. From there, though, everything started to go wrong, as Jadeja (4-0-30-2) castled Vijay (42, 34b, 5x4, 1x6), before Dwayne Bravo (4-0-22-4) produced two of the best balls you will see in IPL 2016 to dismiss Glenn Maxwell and David Miller.
The first one was a peach of a fast yorker, catching Maxwell off guard to knock of leg-stump, with the second that now-trademark dipping slower ball, which bamboozled Miller to sneak below his bat and smash into the stumps.
Marcus Stoinis (33, 22b, 4x4) did his best to rescue the situation and get KXIP to a par score, at least, but another brilliant Bravo (4-0-22-4) over, this time the final one of the innings, kept the Punjab franchise to 161, which ended up being chased down comfortably, thanks to Finch's half-century.