McCullum, Smith power GL to victory over RPS

The star act for Gujarat Lions was staged by the ferocious opening combination of Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum, with captain Suresh Raina playing the supporting role.

Dwayne Smith top scored with 63 for Gujarat Lions.   -  Vivek Bendre

Steve Smith scored his maiden Twenty20 hundred. Ajinkya Rahane hit third successive fifty on the home ground of his new IPL team. Even Mahendra Singh Dhoni played a trademark cameo at the death, thus propelling Rising Pune Supergiants to its highest total so far.

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Still, 195 for three proved to be insufficient as the Gujarat Lions overhauled the target off the last ball at the Maharashtra Cricket Association stadium to retain its top spot in the points table.

The star act for the visiting team was staged by the ferocious opening combination of Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum, with captain Suresh Raina playing the supporting role.

For the second time in three nights, McCullum and Smith scored a breezy partnership in the first half of the innings. Friday night’s act against Delhi Daredevils was staged while setting a target, but this time around the partnership of 93 off just 8.1 overs set up the platform required to chase down a daunting target.

Raina and Dinesh Karthik kept the Lions afloat with a valuable partnership in the middle overs. However, the Supergiants made a late surge, scalping four wickets in nine balls, to leave James Faulkner to score three runs off the last two balls. The Australian all-rounder didn’t disappoint, following up a brace with a crucial single off Thisara Perera’s last ball of the match to break the hearts of 30,000-plus crowd that had gathered to cheer the home team.

The fans had, however, been enthralled with Steven Smith’s artistry with the wood earlier in the evening. Ever since he flicked Praveen Kumar off the first ball he faced square on to the leg side, Smith dominated the Lions bowlers. Besides the flicks, he unleashed his trademark drives and leg-glances as frequently as the number of times the sponsors’ logos splashed on to the giants screens.

The only time he faltered in his innings was at the halfway stage when he dragged one from Shivil Kaushik, the debutant chinaman bowler, on to the stumps. However, replays showed the bowler had overstepped. Smith, batting on 41, not only sent the free hit hovering over long-off but ensured he made the most of his fortune.

His trademark shot was the six – the last off his five – which he hit off a slower ball by Dwayne Bravo in the 18th over. He rocked back, made room outside leg and smashed it over long-off to get an upper hand against the death over specialist. Bravo, however, had the last laugh as Smith deflected a fuller one on to the leg stump with three balls remaining in the innings.

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