Rising Pune Supergiant skipper Steven Smith scored just 4. Former skipper MS Dhoni struggled to 26 off 33 balls. But Ben Stokes scored his first 50 off 38 balls and the second one of 23 balls. Clearly showing why RPS owner Sanjiv Goenka had shelled out Rs 14.5 crore to bag the English all-rounder during the auction ahead of season 10.
Stokes battled cramps and a disciplined Gujarat Lions bowling attack to not only hit his maiden IPL ton, but also take Pune home with a ball to spare. Dan Christian might have hit the winning six, but that took nothing away from the lion-hearted effort from Stokes.
Having bowled four overs, Stokes returned to the crease with Pune struggling at 10/3 chasing 162 for victory. Having scored just 127 runs in the previous 7 innings, he rose to the occasion when the team needed him most to hammer 103* off just 63 balls with 6 sixes and 7 fours.
Rising like a phoenix from the ashes, Stokes showed that form is temporary and class is permanent. His 76-run partnership with Dhoni might have played a big factor in Pune chasing down the total, but truth be told, it was Stokes who single-handedly absorbed the pressure of the ever-increasing required run-rate.
With Dhoni struggling to up the ante, he first launched into Ravindra Jadeja in the 10th over of the innings to pick 15 runs and bring the required run-rate below the 10-run mark and then once again tore into Dwayne Smith in the 16th over to pick 16 runs and ensure that Pune needed just 44 runs off the last 4 overs.
Even though MS Dhoni perished trying to up the ante in the 17th over off Basil Thampi, Stokes stuck on, fighting cramps, to see his team through. It was indeed a colossal effort from the Englishman.