So far this season, the Indian Premier League has lacked a game where a player has single-handedly determined the outcome of it. However, Ben Stokes’ innings tonight was a perfect display of that.
Rising Pune Supergiant won the toss and put the Lions in to bat first. The Pune bowlers did well to restrict the Gujarat team to a total of 161 runs. In response, the hosts struggled to take off, with none of their top four batsmen reaching double figures.
However, in the end, it was the Stokes show as his century carried his team to the land of victory.
Here are 5 memorable moments from the match that don't fade away, quite like the Axe Signature range of body perfumes:
#1 GL’s fine opening stand
It seems as though the Gujarat Lions have finally found a stable opening pair in the form of Ishan Kishan and Brendon McCullum. The pair gave the Lions a solid opening stand of 55 runs before the former was dismissed.
While Kishan’s innings consisted of three boundaries and two sixes, making a 24-ball 31 in the process, McCullum was the fiercer one, scoring 45 from just 27 balls and hitting five boundaries and two sixes.
#2 MS Dhoni’s smart fielding
Age might have taken away MS Dhoni’s vehemence when it comes to batting aggressively, but his antics behind the wicket still leave a lot of mouths open. We often use terms like ‘slow-mo defying’ and ‘insane speed’ very loosely, but if there is a personification of those aforementioned terms, it has to be MS Dhoni the wicketkeeper.
His blazing supersonic speed behind the wicket has, on many occasions, been the cause of many batsmen’s downfall. Against the Lions tonight, it was this very presence of mind that led to the run-out of Dinesh Karthik.
The most amazing part of this dismissal was the fact that the former Indian captain already had his gloves off before Jaydev Unadkat’s medium-paced delivery reached his hands. This display of intelligence is a safe enough indication to claim that, for Dhoni, wicketkeeping is meditation.
#3 Imran Tahir shows his class
Leg-spin is an art that is highly difficult to master. It is for this reason that the cricketing fraternity has somewhat of a dearth when it comes to wrist spinners. Among the very few that exist now, Imran Tahir is perhaps the best of the lot.
The South African leggie knows just where to pitch the ball and how to flight it. His craftiness is one of his prime weapons and it’s this smartness that once again played a role in his success tonight. In his four overs, he gave away only 27 runs while taking the important wickets of Ishan Kishan, Dwayne Smith, and Aaron Finch.
#4 Basil Thampi is one to watch out for
Every year, the IPL showcases talent that makes Indian fans hope. The likes of Sanju Samson and KL Rahul made their name after performing in the IPL – and Basil Thampi looks like he’ll be the next entry on that list.
Sure, the South Indian bowler gave away 17 runs in the second last over. Sure, he ruined all the good work of his preceding three overs. Sure, his last over cost his team the game.
But, the talent is there – it is apparent – and all it needs is a little nurturing.
In his first three overs, he gave away only 18 runs while taking the important wickets of Manoj Tiwary and MS Dhoni to nip Pune in the bud. They would have won the match if it wasn’t for…
#5 Stokes’ masterclass
Before the auction for this year’s IPL, Ben Stokes was predicted to be the most expensive player this season – and that’s exactly what happened. In fact, not only was he the most expensive for this season, his price tag of $2.16 million made him the most expensive foreigner in the history of IPL.
His performances, however, weren’t up to the mark for someone on whom so much money was spent. But tonight, he played a gem of an innings – a match-winning one, in fact. Tonight, he showed us why the Pune owners paid so much money to acquire his services.
103 runs off 63 balls. 7 fours and 6 sixes. This was an innings that will remain in the minds of many Pune fans for a long time to come. After all, this innings single-handedly won them the game.