Gujarat Lions have not been impressive in IPL 2017 overall, but skipper Suresh Raina led from the front with the bat to help his team beat Kolkata Knight Riders on Friday. Besides the left-hander, the opening pair of Aaron Finch and Brendon McCullum played an integral role for the visitors to register their second win of the season.
Though Gujarat Lions' top order looked fantastic when they were chasing 188 runs to win , their bowlers should also be appluaded for some quality bowling at the death overs in the first innings.
McCullum and Finch took the attack to KKR bowlers from the very first over, and looked in tremendous form. The Australian smashed the spinners for some brilliant boundaries, but failed to hit his countryman pacer Nathan Coulter-Nile, who sent him back to the dugout.
However, Finch (31, 15b, 2x4, 1x6) had already done the damage. McCullum took charge in the middle, and began to unleash his shots, and helped GL score 62 runs in five overs before the rain interrupted the game for around 15 minutes or so. No overs were lost, however.
Just an over after the short break, Gujarat lost the wicket of McCullum (33, 17b,5x4, 1x6). With both the openers back in the hut, skipper Raina and Dinesh Karthik had to play an important role in the middle.
But, things did not work as plan, Karthik was out for a meagre three runs. In the next couple of overs, GL, with Raina, were looking good in the chase as the captain was timing the chase nicely. But, he was not receiving support at the other end with Ishan Kishan and Dwayne Smith losing their wickets in quick succession.
Raina, with those two wickets, was under pressure to see his team home as they had to score more than 60 runs with five wickets in hand. The left-hander was aware of the need for him to do the bulk of the scoring if they had to beat KKR. Raina (84, 46b, 9x4, 4x6) did deliver the goods as he steered his team to victory with 10 balls to spare.
Earlier, Sunil Narine (42, 17b, 9x4, 1x6), who opened the innings for KKR alongside Gambhir, was in dangerous batting mood, as he destroyed Gujarat bowlers, especially the pacers. Narine, in no time, scored 17-ball 42, including nine fours and one six. It was his blitzkrieg, which help KKR score 65 runs in the first six overs.
This amazing start provided a perfect base for the rest of the batsmen to score big in 20 overs. Gambhir (33, 28b, 2x4, 1x6) and Uthappa took advantage of that start, and scored at a healthy rate. The duo played their shots, and even crossed KKR's 100 runs in the 11th over.
KKR were inching towards a big target with two such wonderful players, but James Faulkner did a great job, picking up in-form Gambhir, who fell while trying to go for a maximum. Despite the wicket of Gambhir, Uthappa continued his fine display, completing his half century in the 15th over as well.
With Uthappa (72, 48b, 8x4, 2x6) in fine form, and reliable Manish Pandey at the batting crease, KKR had their eyes on a massive total. But, the Gujarat bowlers came back strong in the final few overs of the match, not giving any freebies to score, and with Uthappa out in the 19th over, they restricted KKR to 187 runs.
The Lions' top order including Raina shone brightly to reach the target with 10 balls to spare.
KKR: 187/5 in 20 overs.
Gujarat Lions: 188/6 in 18.2 overs
Result: GL won by 4 wickets
Bowling: Gujarat Lions: Praveen Kumar 2-0-24-1; James Faulkner 4-0-38-1; Basil Thampy 4-0-44-1; Suresh Raina 2-0-11-1; Dhawal Kulkarni 2-0-23-0; Ravindra Jadeja 4-0-31-0; Dwayne Smith 2-0-14-0;
KKR: Shakib AL Hasan 3-0-31-0; Sunil Narine 4-0-42-0; Nathan Coulter-Nile 3.2-0-41-2. Chris Woakes 2-0-20-1; Kuldeep Yadav 4-0-33-2; Umesh Yadav 2-0-17-1;
Fall of wickets: KKR : 1-45, Narine (3.2 ov), 2-114, Gambhir (11.3 ov), 3-169,Uthappa (18.2 ov), 4-184 Pandey (19.3 ov), 5-186 S Yadav (19.5 ov)
Gujarat Lions: 1-42, Finch (3.3 ov) , 2-73, McCullum (6.2 ov), 3-81, Kathik (7.2 ov) 4-115, KIshan (11.4 ov), 5-122, Smith (12.4 ov) 6-180, Raina (17.5 ov)