Have you ever wondered how the storyline of Sholay would have unfolded had Jai and Viru vied with each other instead of forming a stout resistance against Gabbar Singh’s oppressive regime?
The sixth game of the ninth edition of the IPL between tournament debutants Gujarat Lions and Rising Pune Supergiants at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot promised to offer veteran filmmaker Ramesh Sippy a potential plot for a sequel to his cult classic if at all he intends to make one in the near future.
CSK fans, who have become accustomed to seeing the bosom pair of Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Suresh Raina win the now-suspended franchise innumerable games over the years were evidently caught on the horns of dilemma regarding whom to support in the mini CSK encounter on Thursday evening. As many as eight former CSK players represented their respective franchises in the game yesterday (M.S Dhoni, Faf du Plessis and Ravichandran Ashwin from the RPSG camp and Suresh Raina, Brendon McCullum, Dwyane Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja and Shadab Jakati from the GL team). Eventually, it was Raina’s Gujarat Lions which emerged victorious and consigned a sturdy Supergiants side to their first defeat this season. Both teams had registered victories in their inaugural IPL games and were set to conduct a riveting contest with some world class players in their ranks.
Having won the toss, Supergiants Captain M.S Dhoni opted to bat first on what was anticipated to be a high-scoring 22 yards. The Supergiants went in with an unchanged Playing XI while on the flipside, the Lions made three changes from the side which cruised to a 5-wicket victory over the Kings XI Punjab in Mohali three days ago. Pravin Tambe, Shadab Jakati and Akshdeep Nath were drafted into the Gujarat side in place of Pradeep Sangwan, Sarabjit Ladda and Ishan Kishan respectively. Prior to the commencement of the mouth-watering clash, SCA Stadium curator Dhiraj Parsana had conjectured that the wicket would be a batting friendly one and would also assist the spinners from either camp due to its apparent hardness.
The Supergiants opening duo of Ajinkya Rahane and Faf du Plessis began their team’s innings on a promising note as they stacked up 28 runs in 4 overs before veteran leg-spinner Pravin Tambe dismissed Rahane for 21 (off 17 balls) with a quicker delivery which trapped the Mumbaikar plumb in front.
At No. 3 came Kevin Pietersen who united with Faf du Plessis in the middle to calm the jitters in the RPSG camp. Pietersen, who has exhibited splendid form in franchise-oriented T20 cricket of late, started to put the Lions’ bowlers to the sword by displaying a wide array of stroke play. The 36 year old eventually perished for a volatile 37 off 31 balls (2 fours and a six) when he was deceived by a slow yorker from Dwyane Bravo which saw his stumps getting rattled in the 14th over. The second wicket partnership between du Plessis and Pietersen turned out to be a productive one as it yielded 86 runs. The breakthrough came as a breath of fresh air for Gujarat Lions who were looking for ways to push their way back into the contest. The onus was thereby on du Plessis to pilot the RPSG to a respectable first innings total but it was Tambe again who applied the brakes on Pune’s innings as he sent the South African T20I Captain back to the pavilion for a well-compiled 69 off 43 balls (5 fours and 4 sixes) in the 16th over of the RPSG innings where the latter also hit the former for a boundary and a six off the 2nd and 3rd deliveries of the over respectively before getting stumped by Dinesh Karthik the very next ball. What followed thereon was a disciplined bowling effort by the Lions spinners which tightened the screws on the visitors’ batting line-up and tilted the tide big time in their favour. Ravindra Jadeja, who has 1084 runs (at an average of 83.38) and 48 wickets in under his belt in 14 First Class games at this venue ran through the RPSG middle order and dismissed the Australian pair of Steve Smith (5) and Mitchell Marsh (7) in quick succession. The Pune innings which at one point in time was well on course for the 200-run mark, fell like a pack of cards and had to ultimately settle for 163/5; thanks to a boisterous knock of 22 off 10 balls (2 fours and a six) by their skipper M.S Dhoni which helped them recover from a somewhat morbid situation. For the Lions, Ravindra Jadeja and Pravin Tambe starred with the ball as both picked up 2 wickets each.
Lions’ openers Aaron Finch and Brendon McCullum started the chase in an emphatic fashion by taking apart the RPSG new ball attack of R.P Singh and Ishant Sharma.
Finch who was fresh from a sensational knock of 74 runs (off 47 balls) against KXIP seemed to continue his innings from where he had left in Mohali three days ago. The pair notched up 38 runs in just 4 overs and looked unperturbed by the opening spells of R.P Singh and Ishant Sharma. Ravichandran Ashwin was brought into the attack soon after and the wily spinner bowled his first over efficiently, giving away just 4 runs in the fifth over. However, all the pressure built by Ashwin was loosened up owing to some futile and ineffectual bowling at the other end and the failure of Murugan Ashwin, Rajat Bhatia and Mitchell Marsh to tie down the intimidating pair of McCullum and Finch enabled the Lions’ openers to post an authoritative 85/0 at the end of 8 overs. Finally Murugan Ashwin offered some respite to the RPSG think tank when he scalped the prized wicket of Aaron Finch for 50 (off 36 balls) in the ninth over, thus earning his side a crucial breakthrough. Once Finch was dismissed, the baton of scoring runs at a brisk pace was passed on to McCullum who continued the onslaught and was ably aided by Lions’ skipper Suresh Raina from the other end. The partnership between Raina and McCullum enabled the Gujarat Lions to maintain their vice-like grip on the game as they put up a valuable stand of 35 runs for the second wicket. Ishant Sharma handed his side the second breakthrough in the 14th over when he dismissed McCullum for a fiery 49 off 31 balls; a knock which included 3 fours and as many sixes. The 35 year old former Kiwi skipper top edged Sharma in a vain attempt of shimmying down the track which offered an easy catch to du Plessis at cover. Raina who was playing the sheet anchor’s role, played a more circumspect innings as he hit a solitary boundary en route to 24 off 24 balls. Amidst all the darkness surrounding the Pune camp on Thursday, Ravichandran Ashwin’s performance was the only ray of light in the RPSG bowling department as the ace Indian off-spinner returned with figures of 0/26 from his quota of 4 overs. Although his namesake Murugan Ashwin got Raina stumped by Dhoni in the 17th over, it wasn’t difficult to make out that the game had already slipped out of Pune’s hands. The rest of the chase was a mere formality as erstwhile CSK teammates and now GL associates Dwyane Bravo (22 off 10 balls) and Ravindra Jadeja (4 off 8 balls) stitched together a small partnership worth 17 runs and took Gujarat Lions across the finish line with 12 balls to spare and 7 wickets in hand.
According to RPSG skipper M.S Dhoni, toothless bowling in the first six overs of the GL innings led to their downfall. He said, ‘’I think it was a good score but what was important was to bowl well in the first six overs of the power play. We gave away too many runs in that phase. We need to look at the team composition. In the first game we did well but we could have played with a few other players in this game. But you ought to give credit to the players who have done well in the first game. It’s a new team and you don’t have the luxury of playing some fantastic all-rounders’’.
Lions’ Aaron Finch was adjudged the ‘Man of the Match’ for his vibrant half century which was his second consecutive fifty in the on-going edition of the IPL. Finch is also currently the possessor of the Orange Cap with 124 runs (at an average of 62 and strike rate of 149.32) to his credit.
The Lions sit 2 points clear of Royal Challengers Bangalore at the top of the table with 4 points in 2 games and a NRR of +1.0140. On the other hand, the Supergiants have slipped to the fourth spot with a win and a loss each in 2 games and a NRR of +0.837. Gujarat Lions will square off against the defending champions Mumbai Indians in an away fixture on 16th April whereas Rising Pune Supergiants are scheduled to play their next game against Kings XI Punjab at the PCA Satdium in Mohali on 17th April.
Brief Scores- Rising Pune Supergiants- 163/5 in 20 overs (Faf du Plessis 69, Kevin Pietersen 37; Ravindra Jadeja 2/18, Pravin Tambe 2/33).
Gujarat Lions- 164/3 in 18 overs (Aaron Finch 50, Brendon McCullum 49; Murugan Ashwin 2/33, Ishant Sharma 1/39)..