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Ton-up Stokes single-handedly drives remarkable Pune chase

Wisden India logo Wisden India 02-05-2017 Karthik Lakshmanan

Ben Stokes returned to action after missing a couple of games with a sore shoulder and made an impact straightaway, smashing a whirlwind century. His 103* off 63 balls gave Rising Pune Supergiant a five-wicket victory in a tense chase against Gujarat Lions in Pune on Monday (May 1).

Chasing 162, Pune were reeling at 10 for 3 when Stokes walked in. It soon became 42 for 4, but Stokes kept going in a stunning chase that was finished with one ball to spare. He added 76 for the fifth wicket with MS Dhoni and stayed till the end.

Pune were jolted early by the surprise package Pradeep Sangwan, who dismissed Ajinkya Rahane and Steven Smith in the very first over. Rahane was wrongly adjudged leg before after the ball pitched outside leg stump while Smith was surprised by a sharp bouncer that he hooked to short fine-leg.

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Basil Thampi continued Sangwan's good work when he trapped Manoj Tiwary with a quick inswinger in the next over, leaving Pune struggling at 10 for 3.

Gujarat clearly had their tails up but Ben Stokes launched a counter-attack, striking the ball cleanly against the pacers and reviving the chase along with Rahul Tripathi. But just when the partnership assumed a little form, it was broken by a terrible mix-up: Tripathi halted on the second run to be stuck mid-pitch when Aaron Finch hit direct from long-on.

At 42 for 4 in the sixth over, Pune once again had to rebuild. It took some time, with MS Dhoni beginning slowly as Gujarat got their spinners to choke the batsmen. Dhoni scored only five runs off his first 16 balls as Ankit Soni, the legspinner, went through a spell of 4-0-16-0 without conceding a single boundary.

Stokes, though, kept the required run-rate to manageable levels striking Ravindra Jadeja for two consecutive sixes, racing to his half-century off 38 balls. And although Dhoni continued to take his time, Stokes continued to target the right bowlers – particularly Dwayne Smith – as Pune got the equation to 44 off the last four.

Thampi ended the 76-run stand when Dhoni holed out to long-off in the first ball of the 17th over, falling for a 33-ball 26, but one Mr Stokes was firm at the other end. Along with Dan Christian, he got the equation to 25 off the last two overs.

It was still anybody's game then, but Stokes turned it towards Pune, smashing Thampi for two sixes in a 17-run over. The remaining eight of the final over was a formality, and was completed with ease after Stokes crossed his century with a cover-driven four off James Faulkner.

Gujarat's innings started with a flurry of flurry of boundaries off Ishan Kishan's bat. The left-handed opening batsman was harsh on anything on his body and used the pull shot to good effect, finding and clearing the leg-side boundaries with ease.

With Brendon McCullum too beginning in his usual aggressive fashion, Gujarat raced past 50 within the Power Play, but the experience of Imran Tahir ended the stand in the last ball of the sixth over. Realising Kishan was relishing anything bowled straight, Tahir fired one outside off, forcing Kishan to carve straight to short third man.

From there on, Gujarat stuttered every time a partnership seemed to blossom. Suresh Raina was run out in the eighth over while trying a second run before Tahir struck twice in two balls a couple of overs later. He first had Aaron Finch, who had begun with a four and a six, chip a simple return catch before going through Dwayne Smith's ill-advised heave with a googly.

Gujarat had 94 runs off 10 overs then, but having lost four wickets, much depended on McCullum's longevity. He perished an over later, holing out to sweeper cover trying to smash Shardul Thakur out of the ground.

Despite the flurry of wickets, Jadeja came out with intent and struck three fours, but perished to the aggressive mood when he top-edged a hook off Christian to short fine-leg. Dinesh Karthik held the innings together in the death, scoring a steady 29 to take Gujarat past 160.

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