Another one-sided encounter, another win for the chasing team. This season’s IPL, it seems, is on repeat mode, after Gujarat Lions cruised to a seven-wicket win against Rising Pune Supergiants in Rajkot. After a strong start, Supergiants looked set for a score in excess of 180, but a late collapse quickly turned the contest in Lions’ favour. Aaron Finch and Brendon McCullum then, effectively killed the game after pillaging 62 in the Powerplay, during their chase of 164.
MS Dhoni had pulled back some momentum for Supergiants by contributing to a 20-run last over in the first innings, but his bowlers returned it in kind. Loose deliveries stacked up, and the Lions openers duly dispatched them. Four fours and two sixes off the seamers meant Dhoni turned to M Ashwin in the last over of the Powerplay, but Finch took the legspinner for four fours in a 19-run over.
Finch then hit Rajat Bhatia for two sixes over long-on in the seventh over, but holed out to square leg for 50 – his second half-century of the season. By then, though, the damage had been done.
McCullum continued to latch on to wayward bowling, as the spinners failed to extract much from the patchy surface. Supergiants’ day was summed up when Dhoni missed a routine stumping with McCullum well short of his crease after R Ashwin yorked the batsman.
After McCullum lobbed one to cover off Ishant Sharma, the captain Suresh Raina and Dwayne Bravo completed the formalities with cameos as Lions reached the target with two overs to spare.
Supergiants’ batting was a tale of two halves. Faf du Plessis and Ajinkya Rahane continued from where they left off against Mumbai Indians, using exquisite timing to plunder five fours in the first 21 balls. After Pravin Tambe trapped Rahane lbw in the fourth over, Pietersen and du Plessis ensured a productive Powerplay with a host of boundaries.
The pair added 30 off 13 balls to end the Powerplay at 57 for 1, with du Plessis being particularly aggressive down the ground. Even as the fields spread, the boundary was found regularly and their stand stretched to 83.
But just when Supergiants looked to accelerate, Bravo brought out his slower balls to stall the charge. He bowled four of them in succession in the 14th over, the last of which forced Pietersen to drag on. Suddenly, one wicket brought three as the spinners found their lengths. Ravindra Jadeja, who has played most of his domestic cricket at this ground, varied his pace effectively to concede just four off the 17th and 19th overs to finish with figures of 2 for 18.
The situation may have been a lot worse had Dhoni not given Supergiants a late surge – he took Bravo for a six, two fours and three twos in the last over. In the end, Supergiants’ 163 was nowhere near enough as they tasted their first defeat in the IPL.