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The Gujarat Lions began their Kanpur-leg of VIVO IPL 2016 with a commanding victory over Kolkata Knight Riders on Thursday. After inserting the visitors in on a green-looking pitch, the Gujarat Lions restricted KKR to 124-8 and then chased down the runs in the 14th over, with captain Suresh Raina leading from the front with a stroke-filled half-century.
KKR were steady at the start, with Robin Uthappa and Gautam Gambhir adding 23 runs in the first three overs. But after Shadab Jakati’s brilliance on the field – he scored a direct hit at the striker’s end to catch Gambhir short of his ground - provided the Lions with their first breakthrough, it was all downhill. And the bulk of the damage was caused by Dwayne Smith, who returned with career-best bowling figures; the player from the Caribbean broke the backbone of KKR to finish with stunning figures of 4-0-8-4, which included a startling 18 dot balls. He did the basics right, landing the ball in the areas that mattered, let the pitch do its bit and reaped the rewards. He had Manish Pandey and Robin Uthappa fishing outside off, castled pinch-hitter Piyush Chawla and then had Shakib-al-Hasan uppercut a short delivery to deep thirdman. The visitors were reduced to 61 for 5 in 12 overs.
KKR needed a responsible innings from Yusuf Pathan, and contributions from Suryakumar Yadav (17) and Jason Holder (13) to take them to the three-figure mark. Yusuf was dismissed in the 18th over when he drove a low full toss from Dhawal Kulkarni straight to the Lions skipper at extra cover; he made a run-a-ball 36 and hit three boundaries and a six while at the crease.
KKR finished their 20 overs at 124-8; they scored 44-2, 39-3 and 41-3 in the three phases of the innings. The 41-run partnership between Pathan and Yadav for the 6th wicket was the highest of the innings. Smith was the wrecker-in-chief for the Lions, while Kulkarni, Dwayne Bravo and Shadab Jakati picked up a wicket each.
The Gujarat Lions’ chase was rocked right at the start when Smith under-edged Ankit Rajpoot’s first delivery to the wicketkeeper. Brendon McCullum perished in the second over when he was trapped lbw by Sunil Narine, and Dinesh Karthik was cleaned up by a Morne Morkel inswinger in the fourth over. But a stroke-filled fluent innings from skipper Suresh Raina, and his 59-run stand with Aaron Finch put the run-chase back on track.
Though Finch was run out for 26 after a mid-pitch collision with his captain in the tenth over, Raina ensured there were no further hiccups in the innings and drove the team past the finish line. The Gujarat Lions skipper, playing his first match since becoming a father, drove fluently through the off-side and executed the pull shots well whenever the ball was pitched short. He brought up his half-century of 33 balls and two balls later hit the winning runs. Raina remained unbeaten on 53, and hit seven boundaries and a six during his 36-ball stay at the crease. After his match-winning knock – his 27th half-century in the IPL – Raina was back at the perch of the list of highest run-getters in the IPL. For the visitors, who were without the services of their highest wicket-taker Andre Russell for the match, Rajpoot, Narine and Morkel shared the spoils picking up a wicket each.
Kolkata Knight Riders 124-8 in 20.0 Overs (Yusuf Pathan 36, Robin Uthappa 25, Dwayne Smith 4-8) lost to Gujarat Lions 125-4 in 13.3 Overs (Suresh Raina 53*, Aaron Finch 26) by 6 wickets.
Man of the Match: Dwayne Smith, for his back-breaking spell of 4-0-8-4.
A sensational Virat Kohli century – his fourth in VIVO IPL 2016, and his 147-run partnership with his opening partner Chris Gayle, was the highlight of Royal Challengers Bangalore’s comprehensive win over Kings XI Punjab. In a rain-affected match at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, RCB posted 211-3 in 15 overs and then reduced the visitors to 120-9 in 14 overs when showers forced a premature end to the match. RCB were found to be ahead by 82 runs against the target worked out using the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method when the skies opened up. As a result of their emphatic win, RCB jumped to second in the team standings.
After rain had delayed the start of the match for more than two hours, Kings XI Punjab captain Murali Vijay called correctly at the toss and put the home side in, hoping his bowlers would use the moisture in the pitch brought about by the surface remaining under the covers. He was made to rue that decision, after Virat and Gayle launched an onslaught from both ends, leaving the KXIP bowlers short of ideas. RCB started steadily, scoring 17 in the first three overs. That was the calm before the storm – those were the only three overs in the innings in which RCB scored in single-digits.
It was fireworks for the next twelve overs. Boundaries came thick and fast, and balls were hit into the boundary hoardings and into the stands in regular intervals. Gayle had sounded out a warning after the previous match in Kolkata, asking his fans to be prepared to cheer and celebrate; the Jamaican lived up to his words, smashing 73, hitting four boundaries and eight sixes in his 32-ball knock. His captain Kohli matched him stroke-for-stroke at the other end. In the 147-run partnership, which was brought to an end with Gayle’s dismissal in the eleventh over, Kohli had contributed 69.
Though RCB lost AB de Villiers for a second-ball duck soon after, Kohli motored along; he batted with an injured left hand, yet played some stunning cricketing strokes. Never once was there a slog or a stroke played under pressure. The RCB captain’s thought process and shot selection was impeccable; he scored plenty of runs in the ‘V’, and also peppered the midwicket boundary.
Kohli brought up his fourth T20 century, and in the course displaced Suresh Raina as the top run-getter in the IPL; on this day, he needed only 47 balls to get to the three-figure mark – the quickest of his four centuries, each one coming at a progressively quicker pace. He was dismissed at the end of the 14th over when he attempted to go over the top of long-off, but mishit it and holed out to David Miller on the boundary; Kohli made 113 from 50 balls, and his innings was laced with 12 fours and 8 sixes.
KL Rahul chipped in with a cameo, scoring 16 from six balls, as RCB finished their allotted fifteen overs at 211-3 – their third 200-plus score of the season.
Faced with a required run rate of 14.13 from the start of their chase, KXIP had no other option but to go for it. Already without two of their key players – Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis, KXIP’s run-chase never took off. Once captain and batting mainstay Murali Vijay was dismissed in the second over, the pressure was only mounting further. KXIP failed to stitch partnerships and kept losing wickets consistently.
Wriddhiman Saha’s 24 was the highest score of the innings and the 26-run stand between him and Hashim Amla was the highest partnership of the innings. KXIP were reduced to 120-9 after 14 overs, when the rains set in and forced the players off the field for the final time.
For RCB, Sreenath Arvind, who has a fondness for the Chinnaswamy Stadium, accounted for the two openers, before leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal tied up the opposition, returning with career-best figures of 4-25. Shane Watson too picked up two wickets. Brief Score
Royal Challengers Bangalore 211-3 in 15.0 Overs (Chris Gayle 73, Virat Kohli 113) beat Kings XI Punjab 120-9 in 14.0 Overs (Wriddhiman Saha 24, Yuzvendra Chahal 4-25, Shane Watson 2-7, Sreenath Arvind 2-18) by 82 runs (DLS Method).
Man of the Match: Virat Kohli, for his match-winning 50-ball 113.