Aaron Finch and Brendon McCullum played destructive knocks up the order to guide Gujarat Lions to a comprehensive seven-wicket win over Rising Pune Supergiants in the battle of debutants at the Indian Premier League. Their second consecutive win propelled Gujarat Lions to the top of the points table.
Chasing a below-par 164 for win, Gujarat Lions rode on a powerful batting display to overwhelm the target with two overs to spare. Earlier, Faf du Plessis smashed a quick half century before Gujarat Lions pulled things back with fine death bowling display to restrict the Supergiants to 163 for five.
Coming out to chase the target, Finch (50 off 36) and McCullum (49 off 31) got Gujarat Lions off to a breezy start, sharing 85 runs for the opening stand in just 8.3 overs.
Finch was the initiator as he used his power to great effect and smashed young leg-spinner Murugan Ashwin (2/31) for four boundaries in the sixth over. He then took on Rajat Bhatia and clobbered the medium-pacer for two sixes in the next over to make his intentions clear.
Finch raced to his 50 in just 33 balls with the help of seven boundaries ans two sixes but soon after he perished trying to hit another boundary, caught by Ishant Shama at fine-leg off Murugan Ashwin.
After Finch’s dismissal, McCullum took the onus of him and struck Ravichandran Ashwin for a bounadry and a six in the 12th over before getting a life when Mahendra Singh Dhoni missed a regulation stumping in the next ball.
But the missed stumping did not cost Supergiants much as McCullum got out soon, caught by Du Plessis of Ishant Sharma as the batsman went for an extravagant shot.
But by that time the damage has already been done and therafter Gujarat Lions captain Suresh Raina (24) and Dwayne Bravo (22 off 10) played sensibly to take the hosts home with 12 balls to spare.
Electing to bat earlier in the day, Du Plessis (69) and Kevin Pietersen (37) wnt hammer and tongs after the fall of Ajinkya Rahane (21) to raise hopes of a 200-plus score for Supergiants at one stage, but Gujarat Lions pulled things back with brilliant death bowling from Ravindra Jadeja, who finished with impressive figures off 2/18 from his four overs.
The Supergiants got off to a flying start with Rahane playing some great cricketing shots, which included two consecutive boundaries of Shadab Jakati in the second over.
Rahane looked in great touch and lofted Praveen Tambe (2/33) over mid-on for another four. But a ball later the veteran leg-spinner had his man when he foxed Rahane with a quicker delivery to catch his young Mumbai teammate plumb in front of the wicket.
Rahane’s dismissal hardly had any imapact on the Supergiants scoring rate as Du Plessis and Pietersen went about their business in style, stitching 86 runs for the second wicket in just 61 balls.
Du Plessis was the aggressive among the duo as he smashed five boundaries and four sixes during his 43-ball knock, while Pietersen’s runs came off 31 balls with the help of two fours and one hit over the fence.
Just when it seemed the duo would run away with the innings, Bravo (1/43) bowled Pietersen with a slower delivery in the last ball of the 14th over.
Du Plessis, however, kept his aggressive attitude and smashed Tambe for a four and six in consecutive balls before perishing in next ball in search of one too many. He was stumped by Dinesh Karthik as the South African went for another huge hit.
Jadeja then dismissed Steven Smith and Mitchell Marsh in his consecutive overs to pull things back for the Gujarat Lions.
Towards the end, Supergiants skipper Dhoni (22 not out off 10) proved why he is regarded as the best finishers of the game as he struck Bravo for two boundaries and one six to pick up 20 runs off the last over and take his team past the 160-run mark.