England cricketer Ben Stokes showed on Monday why he deserves every single penny of the INR 14.5 crores he got during Indian Premier League (IPL) 2017 player auction. Playing against Gujarat Lions (GL), with the backs against the wall, the Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) all-rounder hammered an unbeaten 103 off 63 balls to guide his team to a 5-wicket win. Chasing 162 to win at Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) Stadium in Pune, RPS were reeling at 10 for 3 and further at 42 for 4. But Stokes had other ideas, as he almost single-handedly earned RPS their 6th win in the tournament, thus keeping them at the fourth place in the points table.
All, including the RPS captain Steven Smith, applauded Stokes’ match-winning knock which was laden with 7 fours and 6 sixes. Speaking at the post-match presentation ceremony, Smith said, “It wasn’t an ideal start but we have some artillery in the shed. The partnership between MS [Dhoni] and Stokes was magnificent; they took it deep,” said Smith, adding ”It is one of the easier ground to hit sixes and Stokesy made use of it.”
Earlier, Gujarat had a flying start, as they were 94 for 2 inside 10 overs at one stage. However, the RPS bowlers pulled things back for their side as GL could eventually manage only 161 all-out. Smith was all praise for his bowlers. “It was a great effort from the bowlers to pull it back. One of the balls hit the side of the hoarding, taking a chunk out of it, and the ball started reversing. That made things easier,” he said.
Talking about momentum after a good run in the IPL 10 of late, Smith said, “The tournament is about peaking at the right time. Hopefully, it’s not too early. Five or six games in a row here. Hopefully we can keep that up.” He also had some words for Lockie Ferguson, who had to miss this game for Stokes after a Man-of-the-Match winning performance in the last game. “It was unlucky to miss out after getting Man of the Match and bowling so well in the last game. Stokesy is a quality guy, that’s why we picked him up. 100 odd off 60 rocks,” Smith concluded.