Two teams from the bottom half of the points table were up against each other as Gujarat Lions hosted Kings XI Punjab for the 26th match of the season. The Rajkot pitch has had a history of producing high-scoring encounters and this one too turned out to be one of them.
The home side opted to bowl first after winning the toss and the decision turned against them when the centurion from last game, Hashim Amla, was up and running straight away. Decent contributions from the middle order helped them get to a formidable total of 188/7.
Lions’ chase got off to a poor start when Brendon McCullum was dismissed in the first over itself. But the skipper Suresh Raina was looking in fine touch and smashed a few stylish boundaries. There were plenty of runs still required and the onus was on him to take his side past the line.
But it didn’t turn out to be the day of the left-hander.
The turning Point
After McCullum’s dismissal, the other opener Aaron Finch and the number 3 batsman Suresh Raina began going after the bowling. The duo added 40 runs from 28 balls for the second wicket and the chase looked under control.
Finch lost his wicket in the 6th over but GL still had assurance with the presence of captain at the crease. Dinesh Karthik walked in at number 4 and played the perfect foil for Raina. The Lions were still in the game as the two experienced Indians constructed a decent partnership in the middle.
But as the required rate crept up, Raina looked to up the ante in the 9th over when the score reached 70. He tried to loft Axar Patel over the boundary and managed to get a good willow behind the ball.
The ball seemed like sailing over the deep mid-wicket boundary but KXIP skipper Maxwell was at the right place at the right time. He followed the trajectory of the ball closely and stationed himself in the line of the shot.
The Australian timed his jump to perfection and plucked the ball out of thin air. A sensational catch from Maxwell meant that his counterpart had to make the long walk back as his knock was curtailed to 32 off 24 balls that proved to be the turning point of the game.
How the game panned out
Initially, during KXIP’s innings, Manan Vohra was dismissed in the second over courtesy a beauty from Nathu Singh. The deck was tailor made for the batsmen and the in-form Hashim Amla and Shaun Marsh took full advantage of that. They added 70 runs for the second wicket before the Australian was removed in the 10th over.
Amla carried on to get his half-century and found an able support in the form of Maxwell, who was on the charge from the outset. They shared a stand of 47 runs before the opener went back for 65 off 40 balls and became the first victim of debutant Shubham Agarwal.
Axar Patel then played a quickfire knock of 34 off 17 balls with 3 fours and 2 sixes that helped the side get to a huge total of 188 at the end of 20 overs.
In reply, GL suffered a poor start when Brendon McCullum was trapped in front by Sandeep Sharma off the last ball of the very first over. Raina who walked in at number 3 shared decent partnerships first with Finch and then with Karthik. But after his dismissal, the line-up lost the plot and it was an uphill task for the remaining batsmen.
Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Smith and Akshdeep Nath departed in quick successions that further pegged them back. Karthik fought the lone battle till the end but it was too difficult a task for him.
He finished unbeaten with the score of 58 off 44 balls that consisted of 6 boundaries but it turned out to be too little too late. Sandeep Sharma, Cariappa and Axar bagged two wickets apiece and ultimately GL fell short by 26 runs and handed KXIP their third win of the season, who moved to the number 4 slot on the points table.
GL remained on the last position and their campaign went deeper into trouble.