As widely anticipated, the Indian Premier League’s newest entrant Gujarat Lions flexed its muscles with Dwayne Bravo and opener Aaron Finch taking turns to show the way past Kings XI Punjab.
After Bravo took four for 22 to restrict the host to 161 for six in 20 overs, Man-of-the-Match Finch slammed a 47-ball 74 and left Dinesh Karthik to put the finishing touches to an eventual five-wicket victory.
The first over dismissal of Brendon McCullum did not hurt Gujarat as Finch flourished in the brief company of skipper Suresh Raina and then with Karthik.
Returning to the venue where, 15 days back, India ended Australia’s World T20 campaign, Finch carried on the form that helped him score 43 in that game.
Showing his liking for the pitch at the I.S. Bindra Stadium, Finch smashed 12 boundaries and effectively paved the way for his team’s victory.
Finch added 51 for the second wicket with Raina whose decision to field proved right.
Thereafter, the Aussie dominated the 65-run third-wicket stand — in just 6.2 overs — with Karthik by contributing 44.
By the time, Finch ‘walked’ after being stumped, Lions needed only 45 runs from 8.1 overs.
In fact, the target of 162 hardly looked intimidating considering Kings XI’s 98 for two in 11 overs. Even after Ravindra Jadeja accounted for the well-set openers M. Vijay and Manan Vohra, who raised 78 runs, the host was eyeing a big total.
If just 62 runs came off the last nine overs, Bravo’s three overs had much to do with it. Making more than just amends for dropping a difficult catch of Vohra, Bravo virtually ended Kings XI’s hopes of setting a challenging target.
In the 12th over, Bravo’s yorkers got past the aggressive intent of Glenn Maxwell and skipper David Miller. Maxwell tried to make room to play on the off-side and stood castled. A delivery later, another yorker, slower than the one that foxed Maxwell, defeated Miller.
With these wickets, Bravo reached 300 wickets in T20 cricket, overtaking Lasith Malinga’s tally of 299. But the West Indian was not done for the day.
He returned with another twin-strike in the final over, scalping Wriddhiman Saha and Marcus Stoinis after the duo had resurrected the innings with a 55-run stand for the fifth wicket.
Bravo’s strikes pushed into background Vijay’s robust 42 off which 33 came in the Power Play. Vohra, watching Vijay do most of the scoring in the first four overs, then held centre-stage.
But with Jadeja striking in his successive overs and Bravo getting into the act, Lions did not have to chase too many.
KXIP 161/6 (20.0 Ovs)
GL 162/5 (17.4 Ovs)
Gujarat Lions won by 5 wkts
PLAYER OF THE MATCH:- Aaron Finch