Finally the state of Uttar Pradesh tasted the 20-20 magic. It was the first IPL match here at Kanpur and incidentally also the first ever T20 match played here. The crowd was in full numbers and were supporting the Gujarat Lions for obvious reasons. Local boys Suresh Raina and Praveen Kumar in the Lions team were the reason. And they did not disappoint. Gujarat Lions dished out a clinical performance to send some jitters to the KKR camp.
Before the start of the match, both teams had to win 1 out of their remaining 2 matches. Now the Knight Riders need to win their last match against the Sunrisers Hyderabad at any cost to make it to the playoffs.
Gujarat Lions won the toss, as their Skipper Suresh Raina was back for the match, and elected to field on a Kanpur wicket which had a tinge of green on it. It looked a good pitch to bowl first. Kolkata started with Gambhir and Uthappa, again looking good but a sharp fielding and direct hit from Shadab Jakati saw Gambhir walking back for just 8 runs. This was when it all started.
The KKR batsmen found it tough to get in on a green pitch and kept losing wickets at regular intervals with no substantial partnerships at all. The unlikely hero for the Lions was medium pacer Dwayne Smith who broke the back of KKR batting with superb figures of 4 wickets for just 8 runs in his 4 overs. Yousuf Pathan with 36 runs and Robin Uthappa with 25 runs were the only notable scores from KKR as they could just muster 124 runs for the loss of 8 wickets in their 20 overs.
For the mighty batting of Gujarat Lions, it was not a defendable score at all but the first ball dismissal of Dwayne Smith raised the hopes for Kolkata.
But the approach of the Gujarat Batsmen was very interesting. They were getting out but before that they were scoring quickly. The Lions managed to keep the run rate at up and around 10 runs an over for their complete innings. In fact, Smith’s dismissal on the first ball did not stop the other opener Brendon McCullum from coming down the track and hitting a six off the first ball he faced in the very first over itself.
Suresh Raina anchored the innings with 53 not out off 36 balls as first Finch and then Jadeja helped him finish the match with 6 wickets and 39 balls to spare.
The win gives Gujarat the 2nd spot in the points table, a place in playoffs and a positive run rate.
Kolkata has all the reasons to be worried now. They looked like qualifying a good 3 matches ago but consecutive defeats to RCB and Gujarat Lions have pushed them to the brink. They need to win their last match now to make it to the playoffs. They have the team for it but do they still have the belief, we will have to wait and watch.