IPL 2016: Debutants Gujarat Lions emerge victorious in ‘Battle of Lions’

IPL 2016: Debutants Gujarat Lions emerge victorious in ‘Battle of Lions’

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Powered by Aaron Finch’s 47-ball 74, Gujarat Lions defeated Kings XI by six wickets in their opener at Mohali today to get off to a winning start in the IPL. Earlier, the Lions had restricted Kings XI to 161/6 after Dwayne Bravo picked up four wickets to break the back of the batting line-up.

Brief Scores: KXIP 161/6 in 20/20 overs (Vijay 42(34), Vohra 38(23), Bravo 4/22, Jadeja 2/30) lost to GL 162/5 in 17.4/20 overs (Finch 74(47), Karthik 41*(26), Sandeep Sharma 1/21) by five wickets

Chasing 162 at more than eight runs an over, Gujarat Lions got off to the worst possible start losing Brendon McCullum for a duck in the opening over. Sandeep Sharma, who gave Aaron Finch a hard time with his in-swinging deliveries, tried an out-swinger against the Kiwi in the final ball. McCullum jumped out of his crease to face the ball, but ended up giving keeper Wriddhiman Saha an easy chance to remove the bails. 

Although the wicket rattled Gujarat’s plans, skipper Raina and Finch made sure that the required run rate was kept under check by launching a counter-attack. After the one-run first over, Gujarat Lions scored 44 runs in the next four overs to take a commanding position in the chase. Australian all-rounder Marcus Stoinis came to bowl the last over of the powerplay, and Raina welcomed him with a pull over the midwicket boundary for a six. But, an attempt to go for another brought his downfall as the skipper skied one to give Mitchell Johnson the catch at mid-on. 

But, there was no stopping Aaron Finch at the other end. The Australian kept on finding gaps in the field to race past his fifty in just 32 balls. The required run rate, which started at 8 had nosedived to 6.6 by the time the first strategic break appeared. Miller continued to change his bowlers as he searched for a breakthrough, but the only thing that remained constant was the boundaries from Finch’s bat.

With the match almost out of the home team’s hand, leggie Pardeep Sahu gave the team a small hope by removing the dangerous Finch in the 12th over after a 47-ball 74. A loopy leg-break outside the off-stump dragged the Aussie out of his crease, and the ball turned past him into the gloves of Saha to leave Finch short of his crease. 

With the team needing less than a run-a-ball, the Lions found it easy in the middle in the final overs, even though they lost Finch. Jadeja was run-out while Ishan Kishan holed out at backward point, both to Johnson, but Dinesh Karthik collected the remaining runs and took Gujarat home to victory with 2.2 overs to spare. 

Earlier, after making 132 appearances for Chennai Super Kings, Suresh Raina led out the Gujarat Lions at the PCA stadium in Mohali for the first time in the IPL. The debutants played Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Bravo, Aaron Finch and James Faulkner as the four overseas players for their opening match, while the home side opted for Glenn Maxwell, David Miller, Marcus Stoinis and Mitchell Johnson. 

Gujarat Lions skipper Suresh Raina won the toss and decided to bowl first against Kings XI Punjab. After a sedate first over bowled by Praveen Kumar, things lightened up in the next over as Murali Vijay jumped down the track to flat bat Pradeep Sangwan over the long-on boundary for a six before smashing the next ball for a four.  That gave Kings XI the start they needed as Vijay and his opening partner Manan Vohra continued to dish out the same treatment to the other bowlers. 

James Faulkner, who had a nightmare spell the last time he played at the venue with Virat Kohli whacking him for 19 runs in an over, received a similar treatment in his opening over of IPL 9 as Vohra took a liking to his cutters to clear the infield for three boundaries. The over also saw Dwayne Bravo, who has been lighting up the cricketing ground on fire with his dance moves, drop a catch at midwicket after Vohra mistimed a pull. 

With the seamers leaking runs left, right and centre, Raina turned to his spinners Sarabjit Ladda and Ravindra Jadeja after the powerplay. Although, the ploy backfired initially with Ladda’s half trackers and full tosses giving Vijay and Vohra some easy runs, the spin of Jadeja turned the match for Gujarat with the left-arm spinner removing the openers. Jadeja first produced an edge off Vohra’s bat before knocking back the stumps of Vijay. 

With the momentum gone, skipper David Miller and Glenn Maxwell struggled to take runs in the middle and fell to the slow yorkers of Dwayne Bravo in the 12th over. From 78/0 in the ninth over scoring at 9.51 runs an over, the home side slipped to 102/4 in a matter of four overs as they lost the start given by the openers. Wriddhiman Saha and Aussie all-rounder Marcus Stoinis struggled to score big boundaries in the final overs, with Gujarat bowlers taking pace off the balls.

Saha ended his 20-run innings without a single boundary, but Stoinis managed some late runs to guide Kings XI to a respectable 161 runs in the end.

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