Gujarat Lions looks to sustain winning momentum

The team has half a dozen matches to go in the ongoing Indian Premier League and it must be hoping to defeat Mumbai Indians in the last home match at the Saurashtra Cricket Stadium on Saturday.

Gujarat Lions has been well served by contributions in terms of runs by Brendon McCullum (left) and Suresh Raina.   -  Prashant Nakwe

 

Gujarat Lions has begun the second half of the Indian Premier League on a positive note. It effected a seven-wicket win against the beleaguered Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) with almost six overs to spare at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium on Thursday.

Utterly erratic in the first half when it lost five matches, including to RCB, Lions has half a dozen matches to go and it must be hoping to defeat Mumbai Indians in the last home match at the Saurashtra Cricket Stadium here on Saturday.

With Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians taking the top two slots in the points table, the race for the play-offs has virtually kicked off and teams like Lions have to do the hard yards in order to make it to the top four.

Lions has its task cut out because its bowling department looks weak and exhausted; only Australian seamer Andrew Tye has looked the part, taking 12 wickets at an average of 11 runs a wicket. The Indian bowlers have been costly so far, with Praveen Kumar conceding 129 runs of 75 balls, Jadeja 221 of 144 balls, and Basil Thampi 229 of 150 balls. Seamer Dhawal Kulkarni has played four matches and he has a mere one wicket to show for conceding 119 runs of 65 balls.

In all, Lions’ bowlers have taken 33 wickets at 41.52 in eight matches. Skipper Suresh Raina and the team think tank must find ways to make their bowling department deliver the goods in the remaining matches. The absence of West Indian Dwayne Bravo has made the Lions attack vulnerable. It was much against the trend, though, that its bowlers lifted their performance and restricted RCB to 134.

Consistent performers

For the second season in a row, Lions has depended largely on Raina (309 runs), Brendon McCullum (267), and Dinesh Karthik (190) to fire with the bat. Australian Aaron Finch, who did not play the away match against Mumbai Indians because his kit could not be found, played the match-winning knock against RCB with a strike rate of 211.76 (72, 34 balls, five 4s and six 6s) and he must be looking forward to a productive outing against Mumbai Indians in the home match.

Mumbai Indians returns to action after a four-day break, after having gone down to Rising Pune Supergiant for the second time in the tournament at the Wankhede Stadium last week. Rohit Sharma struck form against Supergiant, scoring a half-century, but he quarrelled with umpire S. Ravi on a wide-ball ruling. Promptly pulled up by the match referee for the second time in this season’s league, Sharma lost 50 per cent of his match fee.

The welcome break has given time for Sharma to reflect on his behaviour and also to consider Lasith Malinga’s preparedness to return to the Playing XI. The Sri Lankan fast bowler decided to take a break after Lions smashed him for 51 runs in four overs at the Wankhede Stadium and Kings XI Punjab scored 58 runs in four overs in Indore.

Parthiv: 'A break is always good'

Mumbai Indians’ Parthiv Patel said that in a tournament like the IPL, a break is always good, especially after playing a few back to back matches.

“We took a break for two days and fulfilled certain sponsor commitments. We got into the playing mode here," he said, "When we trained and practised here on Thursday evening, the weather was quite good, coming out of the humidity of Mumbai.

“Half the league is done and the teams in the top half would focus on taking the top two slots, by trying to string three or four wins. It’s all about momentum.”