It was another case of so near yet so far for Gujarat Lions (GL) when they took on Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) at the Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) Stadium in Pune. Coming into this game on the back of a painful defeat in the Super Over during their previous match, Suresh Raina’s side succumbed to another narrow loss to leave themselves virtually out of contention for the playoffs.
On a track which had something in it for everyone, RPS won the toss and decided to chase. Despite scoring a competitive total of 161, Gujarat were eventually outclassed by five wickets in the final stages of a riveting encounter.
Here are five things that went wrong for the Lions in chronological order.
#5 Losing too many wickets in the middle overs
With the young Ishan Kishan alongside the experienced Brendon McCullum at the top of the order, Gujarat raced off to a rapid start in the Power Play. While the former took the attack to the spinners, the latter continued to target the faster bowlers without any inhibition. When the left-hander departed for a 24-ball 31, the team score read 55/1 at the end of the first six overs.
However, the visitors were unable to build on the foundation given by the openers. Raina fell cheaply and was soon followed by the overseas batting duo of Aaron Finch and Dwayne Smith. By the time McCullum finally perished, all the momentum was lost and the innings began to spiral out of control.
#4 Not the finish they wanted
Even though the Lions began to lose their way in the middle-overs, their manic scoring rate meant that the lower-order could still take the team to a strong total as long as they paced their innings properly. But, the likes of Dinesh Karthik, Ravindra Jadeja and James Faulkner could not break free from the relentless pressure applied by the confident Supergiant bowling attack.
Karthik, in particular, was guilty of not forcing the initiative. The wicket-keeper batsman faced as many as 29 deliveries yet could only manage 26 runs including just three boundaries. Jaydev Unadkat kept chipping away in the death overs to limit Gujarat to a much lesser total than they would have anticipated.
#3 Failure to take advantage of Pune’s collapse
Chasing 162, Pune got off to a woeful start. While Ajinkya Rahane was a bit unlucky to get adjudged leg-before-wicket despite the ball pitching outside leg stump, comeback man Pradeep Sangwan proceeded to bounce out Steven Smith to pick up two vital wickets early in the piece.
When Basil Thampi trapped Manoj Tiwary in front and Finch preyed on their hesitation between the wickets, RPS were reeling at 42/4 inside the Power Play overs.
Despite the flurry of wickets, Gujarat took their feet off the pedal and allowed the opposition to slowly get back into the game. With dangerous batsmen like Ben Stokes and MS Dhoni in the mix, they committed a massive mistake in not going for the kill.
#2 Playing Dwayne Smith instead of Irfan Pathan
A quick glance at Gujarat’s team sheet suggests a weakness in the bowling department. Possessing the knack of procuring wickets at different stages of the game, Andrew Tye had been doing all the heavy lifting in the previous few matches. However, his unfortunate injury went on to expose a malaise in the attack. It became quite apparent when they had to rely on Dwayne Smith’s dibbly dobbly stuff to get through the overs.
Considering the fact that all-rounder Irfan Pathan had kept his nerve under immense pressure in the final over of the previous game, the decision to leave him out was bizarre. There is no rule that a team must field their full quota of four overseas players. Hence, Gujarat could have replaced the misfiring Smith and bolstered their bowling attack by including Irfan.
#1 This was Ben Stokes’ night
When all is said and done, it becomes important to acknowledge that some moments are just not meant to be. It was one such game for Gujarat as Stokes rose to the occasion and produced one of the most impactful knocks in IPL history.
With Dhoni struggling to find the boundary at the other end, the left-hander knew he had to do the bulk of the damage. Battling severe cramps, Stokes had a response for everything the Lions threw at him. His 63-ball 103 contained 7 fours and a whopping 6 sixes. Showing his full hitting range, the 25-year-old took control of Pune’s chase from the moment he walked into bat. Unfortunately for Gujarat, this had to be his night.