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Steven Smith ton goes in vain as Gujarat scrape home in last-ball finish

Wisden India logo Wisden India 29-04-2016

A smith is defined in the dictionary as a worker in metal, derived from the Old English word smitan, meaning “to smite or to hit”. In the Indian Premier League 2016 match between Rising Pune Supergiants and Gujarat Lions at Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune on Friday (April 29), the two Smiths, Steven and Dwayne, definitely lived up to their last names with some breathtaking ball striking.

Steven Smith (101 in 54 balls) brought up the third century of the season, steering Pune to a formidable 195 for 3, but it was Dwayne Smith (63 in 37 balls) that ended up on the winning side – a three-wicket margin – helped in no small part by Brendon McCullum’s 22-ball 43 and, perhaps more crucially, James Faulkner’s 9 not out off five balls.

Gujarat were hurtling towards the target at 115 for 2 in the 11th over when both Dwayne Smith and McCullum departed, but then found the rug almost pulled out from under their feet to be reduced to 187 for 5 at the end of the 19th over.

It was Ashok Dinda, who helped script the win against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Tuesday, that came up with the goods again, picking up two wickets – Dinesh Karthik and Dwayne Bravo – while Ravindra Jadeja was run out off his bowling, the last two wickets coming in the penultimate over, to give Pune a glimmer of hope.

Thisara Perera, given nine runs to defend in the last over, was a risk, and when a full toss sent to the fence was followed up by a wide and a single to get a set Suresh Raina (34 in 28 balls) on strike, it looked like a poor gamble. But Perera prised out Raina and Ishan Kishan was run out off the next ball to keep Pune in the hunt. However, Faulkner showed why he is a master at finishing off run chases, taking two runs off the fifth ball and a single off the last to seal the match, on his birthday no less.

Chasing 196, Gujarat needed a strong start and that’s exactly what the openers provided. A lukewarm first two overs were erased from the memory as McCullum clobbered Albie Morkel for 24 in the third over. Suddenly, Pune’s total was looking not as imposing as it had been in at the break.

When Dwayne Smith too got into the act, even the usually calm and collected Mahendra Singh Dhoni looked flustered. Like a girl trying on various outfits before a party with increasing dissatisfaction, Dhoni tried a different bowler from over two to over eight, hoping for a breakthrough. A wicket did finally materialise in the next over when McCullum top edged a delivery from Rajat Bhatia to Albie Morkel at short fine-leg, but the damage was done; the partnership yielded a staggering 93 runs in just eight overs and it made all the difference in the end.

Earlier, Pune lost Saurabh Tiwary in the third over, a bit of hesitation costing him as Raina pounced on the ball and hurtled into the stumps. That, however, brought Steven Smith to the crease and, with Ajinkya Rahane for company, the two managed to wrest control of the innings.

Steven Smith went after the bowling from ball one, steering one to the boundary, and didn’t allow the intensity to drop even after the Power Play. The running between the wickets was particularly impressive as twos were taken with alarming regularity.

It didn’t help, of course, that Shivil Kaushik, the Karnataka legspinner making his IPL debut, got one to sneak back on to the stumps against Steven Smith and then was forced to watch in agony as the replays showed he had overstepped. Steven Smith was on 41 then and with a bruising six off the free-hit, he showed that he was going to make Gujarat pay.

Steven Smith brought up his fifty in 29 balls and then mercilessly dispatched his Australian teammate Faulkner into the stands, but Rahane, attempting to steal a single, was run out for 53. It was a dismissal that didn’t hurt Pune as Dhoni strode in to a situation tailor-made for him to blast off. He got his eye in and carved two successive sixes off Jadeja, while Steven Smith continued merrily on his way, even a flick between his legs finding the boundary rope.

Steven Smith got his first century in 139 Twenty20 matches, but like Virat Kohli’s first ton in the format a few days ago – also against the same opposition – the feeling of joy at getting to the landmark gave way to a bitter aftertaste at the end.

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