Gujarat Lions roared back with their second win of IPL 2017 to upset the favourites Kolkata Knight Riders by 4 wickets. KKR made a decent total of 188 runs riding on Robin Uthappa’s belligerent 72 and Sunil Narine’s cameo. Lions chased down the score with 10 balls remaining, propelled by the openers burst and Suresh Raina’s magnificient 84 off just 46 balls as the Gujarat Lions breach KKR’s fortress.
Gujarat Lions would have heaved a sigh of relief as their tormentor in first game of IPL 2017 Chris Lynn was not in playing XI due to injury. Winning the toss, Suresh Raina had no second thoughts on deciding to bowl first. KKR had won their last 12 games in Eden Gardens while chasing. Still facing the opening pair dilemma, Sunil Narine came out to bat alongwith Gautam Gambhir.
And he plundered 9 fours and a six straight down the ground (that would have made even Virat Kohli blush) to hit 42 off just 17 balls. He made good use of the powerplay overs and cleared the infield with ease. Suresh Raina decided to bowl himself and got Narine’s wicket. His slow pace eased the game a bit and sanity returned to the proceedings.
Robin Uthappa steered the KKR innings beautifully. Anything that strayed onto the pads was flicked away for a boundary. He used the sweep shot well against Ravindra Jadeja. He played very late to garner boundaries behind the wicket. The short ones and the over pitched deliveries from pacers were dispatched to the stands with brute force. Gambhir on the other end gave him good support before James Faulkner got him.
Faulkner, left out of Australian Champions Trophy Squad and brought in for Andrew Tye bowled well. Basil Thampi also bowled some good yorkers but some of the missed ones were taken to cleaners by Uthappa. Manish Pandey couldn’t get his rhythm going from the match winning knock in previous match. Gujarat Lions succeeded in restricting KKR to 188 despite the onslaught by Narine and Uthappa.
Lions decided to send Aaron Finch up the order and it worked wonders for them. Two short ones from Narine were dismissed to the fence in a flash. On the next ball, a meaty blow went sailing into the stands on the leg side.
The half volleys by Shakib Al Hasan were punched off the backfoot over mid-on and a fuller one was hammered for a maximum. After Coulter-Nile got Finch caught at deep square leg witha quicker bouncer, Brendon McCullum counterattacked. A cut through the third man, a six off a bouncer and a swing through the off side, showed that he was in no mood to relent.
A light drizzle started and the umpires decided to bring on the covers after the 5th over. Lions were cruising at that stage with score of 62 for 1. The break enabled KKR to regroup and rethink their strategy. After the play resumed, Chris Woakes got the dangerous McCullum caught at square boundary on the off side. Dinesh Karthik also departed early, trying to work a Coulter-Nile delivery on the on side and edged it to short cover. KKR sniffed a chance to come back into the match.
But Suresh Raina had other plans. An inside out stroke over mid-off, the signature shot of Raina made clear that this was going to be his night. Kuldeep Yadav, India’s first chinaman bowler in Tests, bowled a tight line and was rewarded with a wicket of Ishan Kishan.
He had even Raina in bother as one of the sliders missed stumps by a whisker. Umesh Yadav also came back in some sort of form as he cleaned up Dwayne Smith with a fuller one.
With half the side back into pavilion, Raina started to cut loose. Wider deliveries and the slower ones were all sent packing into the crowd. The good length deliveries where he cleared the front leg to send the sweet white cherry over mid-on made the bowlers look like sitting ducks. Kuldeep Yadav did get his wicket in the end but the equation at that time was 8 needed off 12. Jadeja hit the winning runs to bring some cheers to Gujarat fans (mind it, it’s a dry state).
This win will inspire some much needed confidence in Gujarat Lions den. But they should play Andrew Tye in place of an overseas batsman as their bowling leaves much to be desired until Dwayne Bravo gets fit. KKR are placed second in the points table and Sunil Narine’s bad form with the ball is a concern for them.