Smith and Raina lift Lions to No. 2
Dwayne Smith used a green Kanpur pitch as his ally to return figures of 4 for 8, setting up Gujarat Lions' six-wicket win against Kolkata Knight Riders
used a green Kanpur pitch as his ally to return figures of 4 for 8, setting up Gujarat Lions' six-wicket win against Kolkata Knight Riders. Lions restricted Knight Riders to 124, and then overhauled the target with 39 balls to spare. The win not only vaulted them to No. 2 on the points table, but also lifted their net run-rate from -0.747 to -0.479, intensifying the race for the playoffs.
Knight Riders, sent in to bat, started solidly before Gautam Gambhir was involved in another run-out, in the fourth over. With Gambhir and Robin Uthappa stranded mid-pitch, Shadab Jakati, replacing Shivil Kaushik, fired an accurate throw at the striker's end after an acrobatic stop at midwicket.
Smith then extracted enough bounce and lateral movement to have Knight Riders' batsmen poking outside off stump. Uthappa and Manish Pandey steered catches behind the wicket, while Piyush Chawla, promoted to No. 4 as a pinch hitter, was hustled by a skiddy delivery that crept past his tentative waft. A short delivery was helped along to third man by Shakib as Smith claimed his best T20 figures. Knight Riders were left reeling at 61 for 5 in the 12th over.
Yusuf Pathan and Suryakumar Yadav then limited the damage through singles; an eight-over period after the Powerplay produced just 20 runs. Lions' spinners asserted control until Yusuf got stuck in to Ravindra Jadeja to resuscitate Knight Riders' innings with consecutive boundaries in the 15th over.
Thereafter, boundary-scoring became gradually easier, with the next three overs producing 33. It could have been much more if not for Dhawal Kulkarni and Dwayne Bravo's cunning variations that resulted in just eight off the last two overs as Lions subsided Knight Riders' hopes of a 140-plus score.
Lions approached the chase, it seemed, with an intent to improve their net run-rate to boost their playoffs chances. The batsmen came out playing exuberant strokes on a tricky surface to give Knight Riders a sniff.
Smith under-edged a pull off the first ball of the chase as Uthappa eventually completed the catch on the third attempt. Brendon McCullum wasn't deterred though, as he danced down the track to swat a length delivery over midwicket off his first delivery. In a bid to arrest the early momentum, Gambhir turned to Sunil Narine, and the move worked as he accounted for McCullum with a floater that swerved back in to trap him lbw.
Dinesh Karthik chose attritional strokes with a straight bat but was bowled by an in-dipper from Morne Morkel that sneaked between bat and pad to clatter into the stumps. Suddenly, Lions were reduced to 38 for 3.
, returning from a short paternity leave, ensured Lions were in the hunt through his inside-out drives and flicks to steer the chase forward. He crossed 4000 IPL runs with a lofted cover drive off a good-length delivery from Morkel. Raina and Aaron Finch added 59 to put the game beyond Knight Riders' reach.
Their 36-ball stand was ended by a run-out when they collided into each other in the search for a third run to briefly lend some artificial excitement. With 28 required off 61 balls, Ravindra Jadeja helped Raina end the chase in a canter to ease Lions' race for a playoffs berth.
Nikhil Kalro is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo