Man of the Match: Praveen Kumar

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The Gujarat Lions climbed to the perch of VIVO IPL 2016 standings after they defeated the Kolkata Knight Riders by 5 wickets at the Eden Gardens on Sunday night. Batting first, the hosts slumped to 24-4 before staging a remarkable recovery to finish at 158-4. When it was their turn to bat, the Lions got off to a brisk start through their openers, before Dinesh Karthik’s stroke-filled half-century and Aaron Finch’s blitz shut the doors on the home side.

Set to chase 159, the Lions opening pair of Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum could score only one run of the first over. That was the calm before the storm; in the second over, both batsmen picked up boundaries off Morne Morkel and KKR were on their way. Smith raced to 27 off 17 balls, which included four boundaries and a six, before he was beaten in flight by Shakib al Hasan and lost his stumps in the sixth over.

McCullum (29 from 24 balls) took a liking for Morkel; the South African kept dishing out the short stuff and the Kiwi batsman was more than happy to cash in on them; in the seventh over, McCullum hit Morkel for 4, 6 and 6 in the space of four deliveries. Though he perished in the eighth over, the platform had been set and it was a matter of how many overs the Lions would take to get home.

Dinesh Karthik (who walked in when McCullum was dismissed), and Aaron Finch (who walked in when Suresh Raina was dismissed), showed plenty of intent from the word go. Both batsmen played plenty of strokes – conventional and otherwise, some along the ground and some aerial. Both Karthik (51 from 29 balls) and Finch (29 from 10 balls, 3 fours, 2 sixes) were dismissed with their team on the brink.

Ravindra Jadeja completed the deal in style, smashing Piyush Chawla over the ropes at midwicket. The Lions got across the line in the 18th over.

Earlier in the evening, after being put in to bat, the hosts got off to a dreadful start. Skipper Gautam Gambhir was bowled by Praveen Kumar in the third over – the ball coming off his pads, and Manish Pandey feathered one to the wicketkeeper without opening his account. Robin Uthappa, who had crunched two boundaries through cover in the second over, felt for a Dhawal Kulkarni delivery which moved away just enough taking the outside edge on its way to the keeper. And when Suryakumar Yadav’s innings was culled by a sensational catch by Suresh Raina at slip, the Knight Riders were reeling at 24-4 in the sixth over.

Then came the rescue through Shakib al Hasan and Yusuf Pathan. The latter played his natural attacking game and put the pressure back on the bowlers the minute he walked out to bat; the first delivery he faced, he went hard at the ball and sent it crashing to the cover boundary. In the tenth over, Raina threw the ball to the chinaman bowler Shivil Kaushik, and Yusuf decided he was the bowler to target; he hit the young lad for a straight six and sent the next one on its way to the cover boundary.

Yusuf, respected the conditions and was cautious against the quick bowlers, but was severe on the spinners; he scored 41 runs of the 21 balls he faced from the Lions’ spin trio. He brought up his half-century in the sixteenth over – needing 31 balls to get to the landmark.

Shakib was slow off the blocks, but switched gears just when Yusuf was beginning to show signs of fatigue. Shakib was on 33, scored from 36 balls, when there were three overs remaining in the innings; the first two deliveries of the 18th over – bowled by Dwayne Bravo – were deposited into the stands. In the 19th over, he improvised and sent the ball to the boundary on two occasions. In the final over of the innings, he hit Bravo for a six yet again.

The Bangladesh all-rounder remained unbeaten on 66, made from 49 balls, while Yusuf was unbeaten on 63 (41 balls). Courtesy the 134-run partnership between Yusuf and Shakib – KKR’s best for the 5th wicket – the hosts finished at 158-4.

Praveen Kumar, who bowled 14 dot balls on the night, was the most successful bowler; he finished with figures of 4-1-19-2 despite conceding 12 runs in his final over. Kulkarni (1-30) and Dwayne Smith (1-13) were the other wicket-takers for the visitors.

Brief Scores

Kolkata Knight Riders 158-4 in 20.0 Overs (Shakib al Hasan 66*, Yusuf Pathan 63*, Praveen Kumar 2-19) lost to Gujarat Lions 164-5 in 18.0 Overs (Dinesh Karthik 51, Aaron Finch 29) by 5 wickets.

Man of the Match: Praveen Kumar, for his spell of 4-1-19-2.

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