Gujarat Lions once again demonstrated why they are one of the strongest teams in IPL 9, chasing down a tough 196 to ensure another victory for their team, this time against Rising Pune Supergiants at Pune, and thus furthering the lead at the top of the points table. Pune batted exceedingly well to post a massive total on the board. However, their bowlers were taken apart rather easily by Lions’ batsmen, as the strength of the chasing side yet again came to the fore. Pune fought back well with the ball towards the closing stages. But, they were always fighting a losing battle.
Chasing a score of close to 200, you always need a confident start, and Lions got much more than that. Following Aaron Finch’s injury, they would have been worried about the opening pair, but Dwayne Smith has replaced him almost perfectly. Smith and Brendon McCullum were completely ruthless in their opening stand of 93, which came in just 8.1 overs. Not only did they bring the run rate down to manageable proportions, but also knocked the confidence of the bowlers down. And, although both fell with the target still a long way away.
What the partnership between McCullum and Smith did was it allowed Dinesh Karthik and Suresh Raina to take their own time as they consolidated the innings. Karthik and Raina brought their experience into play, and did not do anything rash as they eased their way towards the target. But, Karthik’s dismissal opened up the game slightly. Lions’s would be disappointed in the manner in which they crumbled after his dismissal. Ravindra Jadeja and Dwayne Bravo have been very poor with the bat, and their failures would against disappoint the team. Thankfully, James Faulkner kept his cool again.
Lions’ super chase meant Steven Smith’s brilliant hundred went in vain. Smith who hadn’t had a good tournament until then came in, and literally toyed with the bowling. It was the kind of knock he played when he was in unstoppable form when India came visiting last year in Australia. When Smith finds his groove, the boundaries come at ease irrespective of the format or the field placings. This was exactly what happened on Friday. Pune were aided by another fifty by Ajinkya Rahane while skipper MS Dhoni came in and provided the finishing touches, which took them close to 200.
Pune will not be disappointed with their batting performance, but their bowling was completely off par. Ashok Dinda, Thisara Perera and Ravinchandran Ashwin all went for plenty, which did not aid the team’s cause. In fact, both sides were poor with the ball. In the end, it all came down to the battle between the batting strength of the two sides. And, Lions were just slightly better on the given day.
--By A Cricket Analyst