Raina, bowlers get Lions easy win

In Kanpur's first IPL game hosted amid much cacophony and buzz, Gujarat Lions secured a comfortable victory against Kolkata Knight Riders to keep itself on track in its aim to secure a Playoff spot.

Kolkata Knight Riders could not sufficiently recover from the jolts given by Dwayne Smith, who took four wickets.   -  SPORTZPICS/BCCI

The first Indian Premier League (IPL) fixture at the Green Park here had all that it takes to document a cricket match at a small centre. Not always pleasant, though. Many valid ticket holders were reportedly denied entry as the surge of spectators outside was matched by the presence of those inside, including Apple CEO Tim Cook.

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Seats were taken much before the match and the festive atmosphere was lit up by the cheer girls and brash music. The announcer added to the cacophony as cricket became secondary to the spectators. How do you explain the joyous scenes in the stands even when Gujarat Lions, the 'home team', lost a batsman or conceded a boundary. But Lions, led astutely by Suresh Raina, executed its plans well and coasted home comfortably to win by six wickets.

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Local star Praveen Kumar bowled the first ball of the first ever IPL contest here and fittingly produced a dot ball. But he also dropped the first catch of the IPL here when, ambling back at mid-on, he let go Gautam Gambhir. The Knight Riders skipper, however, paid the penalty for doubting Shadab Jakati’s fielding skills. Jakati blocked the Robin Uthappa drive and scored with a direct hit. Short midwicket was too close a spot for Gambhir to take a chance. This was easily the standout moment of the match.

Early setbacks

Uthappa, looking good and suddenly looking vulnerable too, produced a stirring six off a flick and when promising much meekly edged Smith. This was the stage for Lions to take charge and it did. Knight Riders was reduced to 55 for four in ten overs. Not the kind of platform to build an assault on. But Yusuf Pathan was around.

The bat a sledgehammer in his hands, Pathan carved some robust strokes, the ball thudding into the boards. He inspired Suryakumar Yadav into innovating at the crease. Lions maintained its pressure and had Dwayne Smith to thank for the early control it gained. Pathan hit a few searing shots and then drove one straight to mid-off. Interestingly, Lions players did not even celebrate Pathan’s dismissal, perhaps knowing it was a matter of time before they got him.

Smith, the 'Man of the match', just concentrated on a length that compelled the batsmen to take the initiative. He bowled to his field, clever change of pace adding to his intriguing show, and Knight Riders walked into the trap to end up with its lowest score of this season.

Lions stuttered initially but rode on the strength of Kanpur-product Raina, who knows the field like the back of his palm. Gambhir tried the short-ball ploy to snare Raina but the tactic did not work. The left-hander guided the chase with ease and ensured Lions stayed on course for a spot in the Playoff.

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