Skipper Suresh Raina [84 off 46 balls] led from the front as Gujarat Lions defeated Kolkata Knight Riders by four wickets in their Indian Premier League [IPL] encounter at the Eden Gardens on Friday.
Coming into bat after Aaron Finch [31 off 15 balls] had got the visitors off to a rapid start, Raina took his time to get settled in before unleashing an array of big shots to guide his team to what was a comfortable victory in the end.
The 30-year-old also overtook Virat Kohli as the leading run-scorer in the history of the IPL during this knock which included nine fours and four sixes. Playing in his tenth IPL season, Raina now has 4,341 runs to his name.
Chasing a target of 188, the Lions were in control for most parts of their innings after openers Finch and Brendon McCullum [33 off 17 balls] had got them off to a brilliant start – putting on 42 runs in just 3.3 overs.
There was a bit of a collapse in the middle overs though, as Dinesh Karthik, Ishan Kishan, and Dwayne Smith were all dismissed for single-digit scores, but Raina was there to make sure that Gujarat kept the upper hand.
Raina was eventually dismissed with the Lions requiring eight runs to win and Ravindra Jadeja was on hand to complete the formalities without any more hiccups.
Before the match, there was a lot of pressure on Raina as Gujarat were languishing at the bottom of the table and hence, the importance of his knock here cannot be understated.
Left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav was the pick of the bowlers for the Knight Riders – ending with bowling figures of 2-33 from his four overs. Nathan Coulter-Nile also picked up two wickets but was a bit expensive this time around.
Earlier, Kolkata went back to opening the innings with Sunil Narine and it worked like a treat. The West Indian cricketer played his shots from the word go en route to a 17-ball 42. Interestingly, all of his runs came from boundaries.
Narine’s wicket brought Robin Uthappa [72 off 48 balls] to the crease and the wicketkeeper-batsman was in fine form, part-taking in two half-century stands – first with Gautam Gambhir [33 off 28 balls] and then with Manish Pandey [24 off 21 balls].
Uthappa took calculated risks during his innings which saw him hit eight fours and two sixes. This was his second half-century in three games which is an encouraging sign for Gambhir’s side.
The Lions, though, would have been pleased with their fightback after Narine’s blitz at the start of the Kolkata innings. At that stage, it looked like the hosts would easily put on a total of over 200, but the Gujarat bowlers were able to pull things back.
Praveen Kumar, James Faulkner, Basil Thampi, and Raina picked up a wicket apiece for the Lions as they restricted the Knight Riders to 187-5 from their 20 overs.
With this victory, the Lions are no longer at the bottom of the table and have climbed one spot to seventh. This was their second win in six matches this season, which means that they now have four points.
On the other hand, the Knight Riders remain second with eight points from six matches – four wins and two losses.
Raina and co. will host the Kings XI Punjab in their next game while Kolkata welcome the Royal Challengers Bangalore to the Eden Gardens. Both matches are scheduled to be held on Sunday.
Kolkata Knight Riders 187-5, 20 overs [Uthappa 72, Narine 42, Raina 1-11] lost to Gujarat Lions 188-6, 18.2 overs [Raina 84, McCullum 33, Finish 31, Kuldeep 2-33] by four wickets.
Player of the Match – Suresh Raina