It took the table-toppers of the previous edition, Gujarat Lions, three games to finally get off the mark, and when the win arrived, it did in style. After Andrew Tye’s exceptional five-wicket haul, that included a final-over hat-trick, the home side chased a slightly challenging total in 172.
Openers Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith put forth a blockbuster opening stand, adding 94 runs inside nine overs of the chase to put the Lions well on course for a victory. The Lions did throw in a fight but skipper Suresh Raina along with Aaron Finch ensured that there were no hiccups in knocking off the remainder of the target. Eventually, the Lions picked up their maiden victory of the 2017 edition, winning the contest by seven wickets.
The Game Changer: Tye’s five-fer tied down RPSHat-tricks are not a daily affair but on a blessed day for the bowlers, it could so turn out that one is treated with two of them. Following Samuel Badree’s exploits against Mumbai Indians, it was the turn of Andrew Tye to hog the limelight on IPL debut. That said, the heart of Tye’s heroics didn’t lie in the hat-trick itself, but in the immaculate control with which he used his variations, especially the knuckle ball with which he dismissed both Rahul Tripathi and Ben Stokes at key junctures in the game.
Having lost Rahane off the third ball in the innings, RPS needed a big partnership to get going and that came from Tripathi and Steve Smith’s combination. While Smith’s brilliant run of form was nothing but routine, Tripathi’s hitting prowess, where he hit two sixes and three fours, was the real surprise. Just as RPS were taking the game away with 64 on the board inside six overs, Tye put the knuckle ball into play in the first over of his maiden outing to arrest the momentum. With Smith gone soon after, the role of Ben Stokes as the big-hitter assumed more importance.
Tye struck back with the second most important blow of the evening when another of his knuckle balls sent the Englishman back, leaving a waning Mahendra Singh Dhoni to do the big hitting.
The hat-trick came in the final over when he dismissed Ankit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary and Shardul Thakur but that could’ve at best, made a difference of ten-odd runs. Tye’s success must have also boosted the confidence of Gujarat Lions, who fielded the Western Australian to provide them with the much needed versatility and balance in their set-up.
The Turning PointTo suggest that Steve Smith’s wicket will act as one of the most pivotal moment of any recent games is testimony to the kind of form he is in at the moment. Smith’s 28-ball 43, laced with six fours and a six, came in an integral partnership that didn’t just calm their early nerves borne out of Rahane’s dismissal, but also put them on course for a daunting total.
But like the cliche goes, when one set batsman falls, the other follows. Tripathi’s downfall came about in the final over of the powerplay and just when Smith was expected to play a longer innings, the RPS skipper fell a few overs later to leave a lot of work for two new set batsmen walking in. As it panned out, Stokes and Dhoni failed to carry on with the momentum and Pune had to derive a lot out of Manoj Tiwary and Ankit Sharma to give them their final score of 171 in their 20 overs.
The Final Nail In The CoffinDhoni experienced emotions of a different kind altogether when he saw his old mates from Chennai Super Kings – Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum, send the bowlers on a busy leather hunt. Thirteen boundaries and four sixes between the duo ensured that there were no inhibitions at the start of a challenging run chase.
Lockie Ferguson and Imran Tahir especially had a tough time against the pair and by the time the two were separated, they had already amassed 94 runs within nine overs of play. It is a popular belief that first blow is often half the battle, and it proved so when Smith-McCullum show reduced every Pune fielder to a mere spectator for the first half of the chase.
A Window Of Hope And A Door ShutSmith, McCullum and Dinesh Karthik fell in the space of four overs and some 20-odd runs, evoking a slight fear within the Lions’ camp, but Raina’s smart approach, during which he hit four fours and a six, doused off any fire that the chase could have caught. Aaron Finch, too, found much needed form as he scored a quickfire 33 off 19 to finish the game without any hassles for his side.
Where Do The Teams Go From Here?Having heaved a sigh of relief with their first win of the season, the Lions head to Mumbai for a stiff challenge against the Mumbai Indians. MI, who won a stern contest against the Royal Challengers Bangalore earlier in the day, would be the favourites in their own den and a win serves the Lions the best preparation going into their next fixture.
Rising Pune Supergiant are down on confidence with three losses in a row, and they would meet another diffident side in the form of RCB in their next contest. While RCB will try to adjust to a different set of playing conditions at home, RPS would feel that they would start even-stevens against them.
Brief Scores: Rising Pune Supergiant 171/8 in 20 overs (Steve Smith 43, Rahul Tripathi 33; Andrew Tye 5-17) lost to Gujarat Lions 172/3 in 18 overs (Brendon McCullum 49, Dwayne Smith 47; Shardul Thakur 1-14) by seven wickets.