Gujarat Lions cruised to a comfortable seven-wicket win over Rising Pune Supergiants as Finch and McCullum made short work of the 164-run target. Earlier, Pune failed to capitalize on the good start given by du Plessis, after winning the toss, as the Gujarat bowlers pulled things back at the death.
Chasing 164, Gujarat got off to a flying start. RP Singh managed to extract some in-swing with the new ball, however, that was not enough to protect him from Brendon McCullum's wrath.
The former Kiwi skipper danced around the crease and swatted the ball all over the ground. He hit RP Singh for two sixes in the third over, and Dhoni was swift to bring on his Ashwins.
While the senior Ashwin made a tight start to his spell, the junior was taken to the cleaners by Aaron Finch. He scored four boundaries off him to take 20 runs off the spinner's first over, and at the end of the powerplay, the Lions were roaring towards their target at 62/0.
Finch brought up his half-century, in just 33 deliveries, with a delicate flick to fine leg in the eighth over. However, he did not add any more runs to his total as Murugan Ashwin provided Pune with some much-needed respite in the next over. Finch's attempted sweep shot went straight to Ishant Sharma at deep square leg, and the 85-run opening partnership came to an end.
McCullum kept up the run rate after Finch's departure as he went after R Ashwin in the 12th over. Even Ashwin's carrom ball was deposited into the stands by the New Zealand star.
The 34-year-old received a respite when Dhoni missed a regulation stumping, but he was dismissed by Ishant Sharma, just one run short of his half-century, in the 14th over. However, by that point the required run rate was down to run-a-ball. Despite Raina's dismissal in the 17th over, Dwayne Bravo and Ravindra Jadeja took Gujarat over the line, and to the top of the points table.
Earlier, Both the teams came into the match on the back of impressive wins in their opening games. MS Dhoni won the toss and decided to bat first on a surface which one would expect to find in New Zealand, rather than at Rajkot. The pitch had a lot of grass on it, and the seamers rubbed their hands in glee, however, as it turned out, it was the spinners who made the difference at the end of the night.
Pune went in with an unchanged lineup from their opening game, but Gujarat made three changes to their team. Pravin Tambe, Shadab Jakati and Akshdeep Nath came into the team in place of Pradeep Sangwan, Sarabjeet Ladda and Ishan Kishan.
Despite the green surface, Suresh Raina threw the ball to Shadab Jakati in the second over, and Ajinkya Rahane went after him. The left-arm spinner struggled with his length as he erred on the shorter side.
The former Rajasthan Royals batsman did fall to a spinner though, as Pravin Tambe came into action. In the fifth ball of the fourth over, Tambe pushed one through quicker than his normal deliveries, and it trapped Rahane in front of the stumps. The batsman played for the spin, while the ball skidded straight on to his pads.
The early wicket, for 27 runs, did not slow down Pune's scoring rate though as Faf du Plessis and Kevin Pietersen opened up their arms. The Englishman welcomed Dwayne Bravo to the bowling crease with a thrilling pull shot that went for a six, and four deliveries later, du Plessis picked up his slower ball and launched him straight down the ground. By the end of the powerplay, Pune were comfortably placed at 57/1, and looked in contention for a big score.
Raina persisted with his all-spin attack with Jakati, Jadeja and Tambe doing most of the work. Pietersen and de Plessis milked the bowling without breaking a sweat. The duo used their experience to manipulate the field, kept rotating the strike with quick singles and dispatched every poor delivery to the fence.
Du Plessis brought up his half-century in the 13th over with an exquisite drive through the covers off Jakati, as he looked in ominous form for the home side. However, just when the duo were looking to accelerate, Bravo broke the 86-run partnership by dislodging Pietersen's stumps. It was a slower delivery by the West Indian, which KP dragged onto his stumps while attempting to flick it to long leg.
KP's dismissal opened up the floodgates for Gujarat, and from 113/1 in 13.5 overs, Pune went to 143/5 in 18.4 overs. Du Plessis was deceived in the flight by Tambe, and Dinesh Kartik completed the stumping in a flash, while Smith holed out at cover while trying to hit Jadeja out of the park. MS Dhoni took on Bravo in the final over and hit him for 20 runs to help Pune reach the total of 163 runs in their 20 overs.
Shoaib Malik or Johnson Charles? Who will score more runs?
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