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Gujarat throw a spanner in Punjab’s works

Wisden India logo Wisden India 08-05-2017 Karthik Lakshmanan

Hashim Amla scored his second century of the Indian Premier League 2017, but just like on the first occasion, ended up on the losing side again as Gujarat Lions made Kings XI Punjab’s life tougher with a six-wicket victory in Mohali on Sunday (May 7).

Amla made 104 off 60 balls – interestingly the same score he hit against Mumbai Indians earlier – to power Punjab to 189 for 3 in their 20 overs, but Dwayne Smith’s 39-ball 74 and contributions from Suresh Raina and Dinesh Karthik, helped by poor catching and fielding from Punjab, helped Gujarat cross the line with two balls to spare.

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Amla's knock was filled with typically classy strokes but there was also the occasional cheeky shot. One might have mistaken the pitch to be a batting beauty on seeing Amla bat, but it was quite slow with the ball not coming on to the bat.

Punjab's innings started with Martin Guptill hooking Pradeep Sangwan down deep square-leg’s throat in the first over, but Gujarat wouldn't enjoy much success from there on. Shaun Marsh joined Amla for a 125-run stand that revived the innings and set Punjab up perfectly for a strong finish.

Gujarat's bowlers used the lack of pace off the surface to good effect and varied their pace well in the initial part. Amla and Marsh struggled to get their timing right and Punjab managed just 29 runs in the first five overs, before the duo began to up the ante.

Amla started the turnaround taking James Faulkner for 15 in an over before Marsh targeted spinners Ravindra Jadeja and Ankit Soni. It didn't seem like Punjab were going all guns blazing, but the scoring rate picked up gradually as they reached 81 for 1 at the halfway mark.

Amla was the first to cross his half-century before Marsh followed suit, as the partnership crossed the 100-run mark. With both batsmen looking to shift gears, Marsh holed out to long-on in the 16th over but Punjab's run-rate only increased with Marsh's exit as Glenn Maxwell joined Amla.

While Maxwell took on Sangwan with two typically aggressive shots over the leg-side boundary, Amla hammered 17 off an over from Basil Thampi with one six and two fours which included an uncharacteristic paddle to the third-man boundary.

He reached his century in the final over when he hit the same bowler over the deep extra-cover fence with an extended drive, taking Punjab close to 190.

Gujarat needed a quick start and they got exactly that, courtesy some brutal hitting by Smith. The West Indian batsman packed quite a punch in his shots and timed the ball to perfection, driving and slashing the pacers past the in-field.

Punjab were already under pressure with Smith in the mood and to add to their woes, tensions rose when Sandeep Sharma was no-balled when he switched angles without seemingly informing the umpire. As if that wasn’t enough, David Miller, substituting for Amla, dropped an absolute dolly to reprieve Smith in the sixth over, Mohit Sharma being the unlucky bowler.

Smith was on 42 then and reached his half-century with a straight six off Axar Patel. Smith enjoyed more fortune when Gurkeerat Mann put down a tough, low chance when he pulled Maxwell to long-on.To give an idea of how dominant Smith was, his partner Ishan Kishan had just 16 to his name when Smith crossed 50. Kishan fell when he slogged T Natarajan to deep midwicket, but Smith struck a couple of more sixes as Gujarat raced to 103 for 1 in ten overs.

Smith eventually fell when he slog-swept Maxwell to deep midwicket in the 12th over but by then, he had reduced the equation to 70 off 52.

It wasn’t much of an ask with Suresh Raina in the middle, ably aided by Karthik. Raina found the boundaries while Karthik remained busy to keep the required rate under check.

Punjab made life difficult for themselves again when Gurkeerat put down Raina, on 36 then, in the deep in the 17th over. It didn’t turn out to be too costly as Raina slogged Sandeep to Gurkeerat again in the next over, this time the catch being held cleanly.

Sandeep imparted more excitement when he had Aaron Finch edging behind in the same over, and out of nowhere, Gujarat were under pressure, needing 24 from the final two.

However, Karthik swung it decisively in Gujarat’s favour once again when he slammed Varun Aaron for a six and a four in a 16-run penultimate over. It left Natarajan with eight to defend off the final over, which proved to be too little.

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