Gujarat Lions and Rising Pune Supergiants went into their respective second games, having won their opening matches. But, at Rajkot on Thursday, the Lions proved to be much superior to Pune. Their bowlers did an excellent job, restricting MS Dhoni’s team to 163, especially after the batting side had gotten off to a bright start. Their batsmen then took it upon themselves to ensure that there was no trouble at all for Gujarat in the chase. The only way Pune could have stopped Lions was if they struck early, but that did not happen, and the result was a mere formality.
A massive phase in the game, which went a long way in securing the result in Lions’ favour, came during the death overs in the first half. Ravindra Jadeja, who has played a lot of his domestic here, as it is his home ground, bowled the 17th and the 19th overs, and conceded only two runs each, while picking up two crucial wickets as well. He first sent back Steven Smith, and then added the scalp of Mitchell Marsh as well, both in single figures, to finish with exceptional figures of 2 for 18. Although 20 runs came off the last over bowled by Dwayne Bravo, the damage had already been done.
In response, Gujarat’s batting was also highly impressive. Aaron Finch has been in great T20 form of late, especially while chasing, and he continued the same with a fantastic knock at the top of the order. What would please Gujarat even more, however, is the kind of innings Brendon McCullum played. He smashed three fours and as many sixes in his 49, and featured in a blazing 85-run stand with Finch. By the time they were separated, half the target was already achieved. Skipper Suresh Raina and Dwayne Bravo also came up with impressive cameos to take Gujarat past the winning line comprehensively.
Looking back at the game, Pune would rue the fact that they did not get enough runs on the board. Ajinkya Rahane and Faf du Plessis got them off to a confident start. But, they could not build on the same. The dismissal of Kevin Pietersen for 37 from 31 balls was a big blow, as he had consumed a few too many deliveries than he should ideally have. His innings meant Pune lost a bit of the momentum they had gained, and du Plessis (69) also fell at a crucial moment in the game, as they were looking to accelerate. After that, Jadeja’s spell doomed them. Jadeja’s performance was significant in that most other bowlers in the team struggled – Shadab Jakati and Bravo went for over 40 in their four overs, while Pravin Tambe conceded 33 for his two scalps. Pune’s bowlers had better figures overall, but they could find a Jadeja-like inspiring spell from any of their bowlers.
--By A Cricket Analyst