In a nutshell
Sometimes the best way to win against a tough opponent is to simply play to your strengths, and the Gujarat Lions did precisely to secure a much needed victory against the Knight Riders. The Lions bowlers did their best to restrict the mighty Kolkata’s batting line-up to 187 runs, and the 58 run partnership between Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja for the sixth wicket ensured that Gujarat chased down the target with 10 balls to spare.
How it unfolded
The Lions made the surprise decision of dropping their most successful bowler, Andrew Tye, and brought all-rounder James Faulkner in his place. The Knight Riders, on the other hand, finally gave Shakib Al Hasan a place in the playing eleven in place of Colin de Grandhomme.
Suresh Raina won the toss for Gujarat Lions and decided to field. Given their weak bowling but a relatively strong batting line-up, chasing was a good choice on a pitch that has historically been high-scoring and favorable to the chasing team. The Knight Riders made an unusual move of opening the batting with Narine. The move paid-off, as Narine made a high-octane 42 runs, all of them coming in boundaries, in just 17 balls. When he got out in the fourth over, his opening partner Gambhir was at only 3 runs. After his departure, Gambhir and Uthappa kept the momentum going for Knight Riders. When Gambhir got out in the 12th over, the Knight Riders were still batting at close to ten runs an over and looked well set to cross the 200 run mark. However, the Lions bowlers bowled well in the death overs. Even though they could not pick up many wickets, they ensured that the Knight Riders set an achievable target of 187 runs for them.
In response, The Lions got off to a good start in the second innings, and both their openers, Aaron Finch and Brendon McCullum, scored 30 plus runs. Even though they kept up with the required run-rate, they found themselves in a spot of bother in the 13th over when they lost Dwayne Smith with 75 runs still to chase. The Lions still had one of the best chasers in IPL, Suresh Raina on the crease, and he was joined by Ravindra Jadeja at this critical juncture. Raina took the charge of the chase, while Jadeja played the role of a steady partner. By the time Raina got out in the 17th over at 84, Lions needed only 8 runs to win, which they achieved in the next over.
Where the game was won
The Knight Riders’ opening move with Narine had the desired “shock and awe” effect on the Lions, but could not convert that into a bigger total against the weak bowling attack of the lions. They will look back at the 13th and 17th overs in the first innings, in which they did not hit a single boundary and scored only eleven runs in total, and wonder what it they had done better in those overs. Suresh Raina did an excellent job managing his bowling resources to restrict the Knight Riders to a reasonable total.
In the second innings, when the Lions were down five wickets in the 13th over, the Knight Riders must have sniffed a chance at victory. Again, they were unable to capitalize on the favorable situation they had in hand. Yadav almost had Jadeja caught at the boundary off Narine, but instead of a dot ball and a wicket, it went for a six in the favor of the Lions. One can only wonder what if Jadeja had got out here – such is the nature of T20 Cricket, where a single match can change the outcome of the match.
What this means for the tournament
Kolkata Knight remain at the second position in the points table, just below Mumbai Indians. Despite losing this match, they are still in a comfortable position to make the knock-out stage of the tournament. The Gujarat Lions, on the other hand, join a long list of team having 4 points so far. However, because of the huge deficit they have racked up in the Net Run Rate department, they find themselves in the second-last place. If the Lions have to rise to the upper-half of the table, they not only need to win matches, but also win them convincingly to improve their NRR.
The Knight Riders will be ruining not putting up a bigger total on the scoreboard in the first innings. More than the failure of their bowlers to defend a total of 187, it was the failure of their batsmen to capitalize in the death overs that doomed them. Their strategy of setting attacking fielding in the second innings also did not quite work out for them, and may have to rethink on this strategy when bowling second in subsequent matches.
For the Lions, this was a much needed victory. Both their victories have come when chasing, but they cannot depend on their luck all the time to win the toss and then chase. They still have a lot of gaps to plug in their bowling attack if they wish to improve their standing the points table.