With momentum shifting from one team to the other constantly and after almost 40 overs of enthralling cricket, Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) emerged victorious in the 39th game of IPL 2017 as they beat Gujarat Lions (GL) by 5 wickets in a nail-biter in Pune.
Ben stokes, the all-rounder from England, scored a brilliant hundred, his first in T20 cricket. In his scintillating innings of 63-ball 103 not out, the stylish left-hander sent the GL fielders on a leather hunt as he smashed seven fours and six massive sixes and rendered a Tye-less bowling attack helpless.
How the match unfolded
After winning the toss, the hosts chose to field first, very much adhering to the trend. The choice didn’t come as surprise though, as RPS are more confident of their bowling and also Gujarat Lions are a batting-heavy side.
Opening the innings with Brendon McCullum, Ishan Kishan carried on from where he left in the last game and got his team off to a flyer. The duo put on 55 runs for the first wicket.
Kishan played another impressive cameo of 31 runs off 24 balls. But got out on the last delivery of the power play as he failed to read a googly from Tahir, and in an attempt to smash the ball over packed off side, played it in the hands of the fielder at short third man.
After a great start, GL failed to capitalise on the momentum and kept losing wickets at regular intervals. But a good hand from Brendon McCullum, a 27-ball 45, and small contributions from Dinesh Karthik and Ravindra Jadeja ensured GL reached a slightly below-par 161.
For RPS Imran Tahir and Jaydev Unadkat were the stars with the ball. Tahir hurt GL by picking three important wickets while Unadkat continued to impress with his wily pace variations and contained GL at the end.
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Chasing 161, RPS got off to a very poor start as Deepak Sangwan struck twice in the first over of RPS’s innings. He dismissed Ajinkya Rahane and Steve Smith and made life difficult for RPS. At the end of sixth over, RPS had lost four wickets for just 43 runs and were looking at another defeat at the hands of their nemesis GL.
But Stokes, who had walked ahead of MS Dhoni, joined forces with the former Indian Skipper and built a crucial partnership. And after Dhoni’s dismissal, Stokes took matters into his own hands and finished the game for RPS.
While GL have a reason to be satisfied with their efforts as they managed to take the game to last over, they should be disappointed to have scored only 161 runs batting first. The conditions were perfect to bat and with the kind of firepower they possessed, they would feel that they were at least 20 runs short.
However, credit should be given where it’s due. It was Imran Tahir’s over, in which he dismissed Aron Finch and Dwayne Smith, which turned things around for GL.
Off the fifth ball of the tenth over of GL’s innings, Tahir bowled a good length delivery on stumps and Finch closed the face of the bat too early in an attempt to work the ball on the on side. The leading edge went straight back to Tahir and the leggie bagged a simple catch.
Dwayne Smith walked in at number 5 and without getting a look in, wildly swung across the line, only to see his stumps rattled. It seemed like Smith didn’t pick Tahir off the hands, as he played a cross batted shot to a slider. At such a crucial period in the match, he would have been better off giving the strike to McCullum, who was timing it really well.
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How Tahir’s over affected GL?
After losing three of their top four batsmen, GL would have wanted a good partnership from their two experienced campaigners – McCullum and Smith. But the latter’s reckless shot put GL deep into trouble.
The double-strike was a body blow for Gujarat Lions as they banked heavily on their batting. And they couldn’t recover from that setback. After losing wickets regularly, GL ended up with just 161 runs, thanks to some quality death bowling by RPS.
In hindsight, if Finch and Smith had played five to six more overs, GL could have gotten a lot more than what they did in the end. Therefore, Tahir’s third over did prove to be the turning point of the match.