Gujarat Lions (GL) skipper Suresh Raina once again proved that form is temporary and class is permanent, when his classy knock of 46-ball 84 powered his team to a 4-wicket win over Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in match 23 of Indian Premier League (IPL) at Kolkata on Friday.
Chasing 188 against a strong KKR bowling attack was not going to be easy. But GL look determined from the start, and that showed when they asked Aaron Finch to open the innings with Brendon McCullum. Dwayne Smith, who did not enjoy a good time at the top in recent games, was demoted to the middle order role. Both Finch and McCullum gave Gujarat just the kind of start they needed, adding 42 in 3.3 overs; pretty much a start similar to KKR’s.
Finch was more attacking of the two, hitting 2 sixes and 4 fours during his brief stay. He scored 15-ball 31 before falling to Nathan Coulter-Nile. Skipper Raina then joined forces with McCullum, and the two got the team to 62 for 1 after 5 overs. This is when rain interrupted the match. Gujarat, however, 21 runs ahead on D/L score.
After the rain break, KKR got the big fish McCullum’s wicket, who scored 17-ball 33 and became the Orange Cap holder in the process. This was the opening KKR needed as three more wickets followed quickly, with Dinesh Karthik (3), Ishan Kishan (4) and Smith (5) getting out cheaply.
But Raina held one end up firmly, hitting the odd boundaries every now and then. The start Gujarat had got was fantastic, and Raina ensured the tempo did not come down. He found an able ally in Ravindra Jadeja, with whom Raina added 58. In the process, the Gujarat skipper completed his fifty.
Raina eventually fell for 46-ball 84, a knock which comprised of 9 fours and 4 sixes. Jadeja (19)*and James Faulkner then finished the game. For KKR, Kuldeep Yadav and Coulter-Nile picked up 2 wickets. But all other bowlers went for runs, making it difficult for KKR to defend the total.
Earlier, Raina won the toss and elected to field first. Gujarat made two changes for this crucial game, bringing in Praveen Kumar and Faulkner for Shivil Kaushik and Andre Tye, with the latter’s omission being a harsh and surprising decision. Kolkata, on the other hand, made a solitary change, replacing Colin de Grandhomme with Shakib Al Hasan.
With de Grandhomme out of the XI, the suspense on who shall open the innings ended with Gambhir walking out in company of Narine. The West Indian did not show any discrimination while dealing with the Gujarat bowlers, hitting Praveen for 3 fours, Faulkner for 4 boundaries and Basil Thampi for 2 fours and a six during his brief stay. In virtually no time, he scored 42 off 17 — scoring all his runs in boundaries. This was also the highest score in IPL with all scoring shots in boundaries.
Raina came in for an over and got rid of Narine straightaway. Uthappa and Gambhir then ensured that the tempo of the innings did not come down. Both the batsmen, who have enormous experience of playing together for KKR, stitched a 69-run stand for the second wicket. Gambhir was happy playing the second fiddle today, first to Narine and then to Uthappa. He scored at a rate just above run-a-ball and eventually fell trying to up the ante.
Manish Pandey, who has been in a terrific form this season, then walked out to bat. He took his time initially, but kept rotating the strike as Uthappa went for his shots. Uthappa played the aggressor’s role between the two and completed his fifty in the process. He was finally dismissed in the penultimate over, when he tried to slog Praveen out of the park, only to get caught at long-on. He scored 72 off 48 balls, which included 8 fours and 2 sixes. Pandey and Suryakumar Yadav fell soon after, with KKR finishing on the score of 187 for 5.
For Gujarat, Faulkner, Praveen and Raina picked up a wicket each, while Kulkarni and Thampi proved expensive. Thampi, however, delivered a fine last over, conceding just 7 runs and affecting 2 wickets. Last 5 overs saw KKR scoring only 46, and that is where the momentum shifted towards Gujarat.
Kolkata Knight Riders 187 for 5 (Robin Uthappa 72, Sunil Narine 42, Gautam Gambhir 33; Suresh Raina 1 for 11, Praveen Kumar 1 for 24, James Faulkner 1 for 38) lost to Gujarat Lions 188 for 6 in 18.2 overs (Suresh Raina 84, Brendon McCullum 33, Aaron Finch 31; Kuldeep Yadav 2 for 33, Nathan Coulter-Nile 2 for 41) at Kolkata.
Man of the Match: Suresh Raina