Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith’s 93-run stand set the platform for the Gujurat Lions’ nail-biting three-wicket win over the Pune Supergiants on Friday.
But it was a close-run thing, with the final run being scored off the final ball.
The Supergiants had set the target at 196 to win, the second-highest total in this season’s IPL. McCullum (43 off 22) and Dwayne Smith (63 off 37), were making a mockery of that as they put on 93 in eight overs.
There was agony for Albie Morkel, given his third start of the campaign after an injury to Mitchell Marsh. In the previous two matches he played, he bowled three overs for 36. In one brutal over from McCullum, he conceded 24 runs, with two fours and two sixes on either side of two wides. His two overs cost 30 runs.
Then came the fightback. McCullum and Smith fell quickly, and the Supergiants started to reel in the run-rate. Suresh Raina (34 off 28 ) and Dinesh Karthik (33 off 20) kept up the momentum, but four wickets went down for 16 runs to set up the thriller.
Earlier, Steve Smith, in the absence of Faf du Plessis, out for the rest of the series with a broken finger, picked up as the go-to man, with what became a match-winning 101 off 57 balls, with eight fours and five sixes.
He was given a massive let-off on 41 in the 10th over, with the score on 77-1; just when the Lions needed a breakthrough. He attempted a sweep off Kaushik and dragged it on to the stumps, but as the Lions were celebrating, the umpires called for a no-ball check. It was millimetres over and Smith was called back to fight on, with devastating effect.
He got great support from Ajinkya Rehane, who slapped a measured 53 off 45 balls,with just five fours, and further more explosive support from MS Dhoni, who took 18 balls to reach 30 as they put on 64 in 5.5 overs.
In the meantime, Dale Steyn remained on the bench, having played just one of the seven matches played. What is surprising is that Gujarat Lions captain Suresh Raina said: ‘It looks green and we have the bowling unit to exploit the conditions.’ But then they put in slow-left-armer Shivil Kaushik for his first game. He went for 32 off three overs.
The Lions stay top the table with six wins in seven matches. Supergiants are stuck at the bottom half of the table with only two wins in seven matches.