The batting might of Gujarat Lions once again came to the fore and the Rising Pune Super-giants faced the heat for the second time this season after the visitors chased down RPS’ 195/3 on the last ball in a thrilling finish.
The home team would’ve felt comfortable at the half-way stage after Steve Smith 101 (54b, 8×4, 5×6) had powered Pune to the second-highest total this season with his maiden T20 hundred.
It was the second instance that a batsman scoring a century against Gujarat Lions ended up on the losing side. Earlier, Royal Challengers Bangalore captain Virat Kohli’s magnificent effort had resulted in disappointment after RCB failed to defend 180.
Openers Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum were once again the driving force behind Gujarat’s successful run-chase. The two blasted 72 in the Powerplay overs. McCullum slammed three boundaries and a six in the third over bowled by Albie Morkel that went for 24 runs. In the next, Smith hit two boundaries as Ashok Dinda’s second over fetched 15 runs. McCullum was out in the ninth over when the wily Rajat Bhatia ended the terrific 103-run stand.
In no mood to relent, Smith, who had hit two boundaries off R Ashwin’s first over, hit him for two more in his comeback over. Thisara Perera got the second big wicket in the 11th over with a yorker. The Lions’ still needed 80 from nine overs, but a fine 51-run stand between Suresh Raina and Dinesh Karthik ensured the momentum was not lost despite both the openers being back in the dugout.
The match headed for a close finish with Karthik’s dismissal in the 17th over and with Dwayne Bravo and Ravindra Jadeja getting out in the penultimate over, the home team bounced back.
Needing nine in the final over, the Lions’ slipped further after losing Raina and Kishan off successive deliveries.They, however had James Faulkner, an expert in crunch situations.
Earlier, Smith became the seventh Australian to get a century in the IPL. Coming in at No. 3, Smith guided his team to a massive score. With Faf du Plessis ruled out of the tournament, the home team experimented by sending Saurabh Tiwary to open with Rahane. The move did not work with Tiwary being run-out in the third over courtesy a flying effort from Raina. It was Tiwary, who went for a cheeky run but was found short of his crease as Raina ran hard and dived to dislodge the stumps.The Rahane-Smith pair that had added 56 for the second wicket against Kolkata Knight Riders in the previous home game, again got going and shared the first ever 100-run stand for RPS.
The visitors and particularly youngster Shivil Kaushik will rue the missed opportunity in the 10th over when Smith was batting on 40. Making his IPL debut, Kaushik, who bowls left-arm chinaman and is yet to feature in any form of competitive cricket, had Smith chopping the ball back onto the stumps. In what would have been his maiden IPL wicket, the umpires called it a no-ball after Kaushik was found to have overstepped just marginally. Not the one to miss out on the opportunity, Smith smashed the free-hit ball for a six and that further demoralized the youngster.
The strong partnership was broken soon after Rahane completed his fifty in 43 balls. Like Tiwary, Rahane too was run-out when Bravo collected the ball off his own bowling and threw it back at the non-striker’s end in the 14th over. Dhoni walked out to bat and he targeted Ravindra Jadeja’s final over, hitting him for two successive sixes. The two added 64 runs for the third wicket in just 35 balls before Smith was out in the final over. Smith got to his century in style with a four on the second ball after starting the over on 97. He was out the next ball when Bravo bowled a fine yorker, but Dhoni finished the innings on a high with a cracking boundary.