Suresh Raina nullified Nitish Rana’s exceptional efforts with the bat to help Gujarat Lions beat Mumbai Indians by six wickets at the Green Park stadium in Kanpur on Saturday, to confirm their spot in the Indian Premier League 2016 playoffs. Raina scored a half-century and stitched a 96-run partnership off just 54 balls to set the tone for a steep run chase. The defending champions finish on 14 points from 14 fixtures and their fate now depend on Sunday’s results. Lions’ victory has also ensured that Sunrisers become the second team to advance.
Asked to bat first, Rohit Sharma began fluently and even survived an early LBW shout, wrongly turned down by the umpire. Much to his chagrin, however, he failed to capitalise on the early reprieve and trudged back for a 17-ball 30 in the fourth over. Dwayne Smith, fresh from his career-best bowling performance in the previous fixture, struck twice in his first over to dismiss Martin Guptill and Mumbai’s previous fixture hero, Krunal Pandya. Mumbai’s breezy start was brought to a sudden halt as the the visitors were 45 for 3 in 5 overs.
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Nitish, playing only his fourth game of the season, stitched two vital partnerships to deny Gujarat Lions a chance to dismantle Mumbai’s top-order cheaply. Jos Buttler joined him first, as the pair added 75 runs off 53 deliveries for the fourth wicket. The 22-year-old Delhi batsman took charge of the proceedings, smashing three sixes and two fours in the course of his stand with Buttler, who played a rather sedate hand by his lofty standards, with a 31-ball 33. A sensational return catch from Dwayne Bravo sent the England batsman packing in the 14th over.
Kieron Pollard arrived at Buttler’s dismissal in the 14th over, and straightaway sent some sparks flying. As Bravo ran up to bowl the first delivery to Pollard, the Mumbai Indians batsman pulled away and took a couple of steps down the track to examine the pitch. Bravo got one over his West Indian compatriot in the very next ball as Pollard tried and failed to put a short ball away. Bravo took the ‘gamesmanship’ a little too far, when he walked up to Pollard and bumped into him.
Despite the Pollard-Bravo shenanigans, Nitish’s focus was undeterred as he dispatched Shadab Jakati for three consecutive boundaries in the following over and reached his half-century off just 27 deliveries. It was Bravo who broke this partnership as well, with Nitish falling prey to a slower delivery and holing out to the deep square leg for a 36-ball knock of 70 in the 17th over. Mumbai could manage just 19 runs off the last three overs as they posted 172 for 8,
Gujarat Lions were jolted early in the steep chase, as Vinay Kumar trapped Aaron Finch in front of the stumps for a second-ball duck to claim his 100th IPL wicket – the fifth bowler to do so. Raina and Brendon McCullum threw caution to the winds to ensure the early wicket didn’t jeopardise their chase. Mitchell McClenaghan, the New Zealand pacer, was at the receiving end of Raina’s onslaught, who smashed him for three fours and six in the third over.
Krunal Pandya was welcomed by McCullum with trademark disdain, as the former New Zealand skipper collected 10 runs off the first three deliveries and finished it off with a six. Another 18-run over meant the Lions breached the 50-run mark in just 5 overs. Bumrah wasn’t spared either as he conceded 19, taking Gujarat Lions to 70 for 1 in 6 overs. McCullum looked set for a fast-paced half-century before a Harbhajan Singh delivery in the 10th over escaped the big-hitter’s bat swing and tickled the top off the stumps. Yet, Raina bringing up his second successive half century in the 10th over meant Lions were in firm control in pursuit of the target, reaching 100 at the halfway stage.
A lucky break came Mumbai’s way as Dinesh Karthik was incorrectly-adjudged caught behind off Vinay Kumar in the 11th over. Dwayne Smith took just four balls since his arrival to tee off and smash Harbhajan for a six. With just 52 to get off 48 balls for Lions, Rohit brought back Bumrah. The Indian pacer gave his team a glimmer of hope by dismissing Raina for a 36-ball 58, but the asking rate was too little for the two-time champions to try and turn things around. Smith further simplified the equation by going after Harbhajan and Jadeja joined in to wipe out the deficit with ease and record a win with six wickets and 2.1 overs to spare.