Dwayne Smith is a thorough professional, a wonderful hitter of the ball and a great entertainer. The 33-year-old is a part of very many Twenty 20 leagues that entertain vast audiences in India, Australia, Bangladesh and England. The Barbadian will soon touch the 250- mark in club-based leagues.

He is one of those opening batsmen who has developed the knack of getting into the groove quickly, switch styles from the rudimentary to the unorthodox and move into the top gear in a jiffy. He always brings value for money and though bought by Gujarat Lions at a modest bid of Rs. 2.3 crores --- virtually half the price that Chennai Super Kings (CSK) paid for him at Rs. 4.5 crores two years ago --- Dwayne, with his own brand of attacking batsmanship at the top of the order, has delivered the goods in the three matches that he has played so far in the Vivo-IPL-9.

On Sunday the Gujarat Lions’ opener will make a second appearance at the Saurashtra Cricket Stadium at Khanderi, the penultimate home match for Suresh Raina’s team before it shifts base to Green Park, Kanpur.

For the third time in as many matches he went full throttle while chasing Rising Pune Supergiants’ high target of 196 on Friday night and laid a strong foundation for the Lions to notch its sixth win in the first seven outings; a remarkable feat considering that the Lions side is just an off-shoot of the suspended CSK. 

Smith made his Lions debut with a 21-ball 32 against Royal Challengers Bangalore. He has gone on to make a 30-ball 53 against Delhi Daredevils and a 37-ball 63 against the Supergiants. In all he has struck 17 fours and 6 sixes. And more significantly he has offset Aaron Finch’s absence at the top with roaring partnerships with Brendon McCullum: 43 against RCB, 112 against the Daredevils and 93 against Supergiants.

It’s the individual brilliance of Finch initially with McCullum and thereafter of Smith with McCullum to thrash the opposing bowlers in the six-over powerplay that has given the Lions all the strength. And it looks as though they will play a big part in the second half of the league too, to secure the Lions a play-off slot.

While the likes of Finch, McCullum, Smith and Raina and to an extent Dinesh Karthik have stirred up tremendous excitement and hope for the Lions, the failure of local hero Ravindra Jadeja must be hurting the all-rounder himself. Clearly, the surface here has not been to his liking to work magic with the ball. He and the Australian all-rounder James Faulkner must be looking forward to better returns in the second half of the league.

The Lions’ opponent, Kings XI Punjab --- with just one win against the Supergiants --- is scraping the bottom of the table. But coach Sanjay Bangar expects his bowlers to put the ball in the right place and the in-form Lions’ openers to make mistakes. “We know that the Lions are playing very well. So we know the team we are up against. We all know that cricket is a one-ball game. We all know that a piece of individual brilliance can take a game away. We are expecting some brilliance from some of our key players tomorrow.”

The Lions won its IPL debut match against KXIP at Mohali, chasing 162. The time is upon KXIP with a new captain in Murali Vijay to put it across the home team, which is in roaring form. >Read: Murali Vijay is KXIP captain