sportshour247

Stokes century scripts stunning Pune win

Rising Pune Supergiant 167 for 5 (Stokes 103*, Dhoni 26, Thampi 2-35, Sangwan 2-38) beat Gujarat Lions 161 (McCullum 45, Karthik 29, Tahir 3-27, Unadkat 3-29) by five wickets

Ben Stokes

Getty Image

A maiden T20 hundred from Ben Stokes moved Rising Pune Supergiant to their sixth win of the season in a seesawing contest against Gujarat Lions. Battling cramp, frequent wicket losses at the other end, and the demands of a testing asking rate, Stokes steered Rising Pune home with a ball to spare.

Sent in to bat, Lions ran away to 55 for no loss inside the Powerplay, but lost their way thereafter to get bowled out for 160. Supergiants’ chase inverted the pattern: the flurry of wickets came in the beginning, leaving them 42 for 4 at one point, before Stokes, with a bit of help from MS Dhoni and Daniel Christian, took the game away from Lions once again.

Tahir stalls Lions after bright opening stand

Having been sent in to bat, Lions got off to an excellent start, Brendon McCullum and Ishan Kishan finding the gaps and putting away the short ball clinically to race to 55 in just 5.5 overs. Then Kishan, having already hit Imran Tahir for two fours in the sixth over, sliced the last ball of the Powerplay into the hands of short third man.

What followed was a puzzling slump. With Dwayne Smith coming in for the injured Andrew Tye, Lions had batting depth all the way down to James Faulkner at No. 8. But this was to be one of their bad days.

Suresh Raina fell to a harebrained run-out before Tahir struck with successive balls – Aaron Finch sending back a return catch off the leading edge and Dwayne Smith playing all around a googly – to leave Lions 94 for 4 after 10 overs. McCullum fell soon after. Then, from 109 for 5, came a brief revival, with Dinesh Karthik and Ravindra Jadeja adding 26 in 19 balls, before another slide. Struggling to put away the slower ball, Lions did not score a boundary between the fourth ball of the 14th over and the fifth ball of the 19th. Eventually, they were bowled out with one ball still left in their innings.

Sangwan, Thampi shock Pune top order

Within nine balls of the Rising Pune innings, a middling target became a daunting one. Pace was the catalyst in this transformation. Pradeep Sangwan, playing his first game of the season, produced a classic inswinger from left-arm over to trap Ajinkya Rahane lbw (with some help from Marais Erasmus, who did not notice that the ball had pitched outside leg stump) and bounced out Steven Smith. Then Basil Thampi made Manoj Tiwary pay for being stuck on the crease.

Stokes looked in ominous form right from the time he punched his fifth ball for four past the stumps at the other end, and raced away to 25 off 17 to keep the required rate in check. But a mix-up sent back Rahul Tripathi in the sixth over, and Rising Pune were back in deep trouble.

Spinners tie down Dhoni

Before this match, Dhoni had scored 111 off 79 balls against pace this season, and only 62 off 64 balls against spin. His struggles against spin continued here. Against Ankit Soni and Ravindra Jadeja, who began bowling in tandem as soon as he walked in, he scored 12 off 20 balls, facing 14 dots.

Soni’s legspin caused Stokes a few problems too – he didn’t seem to pick the slider out of the front of the hand, angled across him, and on a few occasions ended up playing down the wrong line. But successive sixes over long-on off Jadeja and a sliced four past point off Dwayne Smith kept Pune in touch with their asking rate, just about. After 14 overs, they needed exactly two a ball – 72 from 36.

Hobbling Stokes seals the deal

Despite being tied down by them, Dhoni did not take any chances against the spinners, and couldn’t afford to take too many, given Pune’s situation at that stage. He had to target the quicks, and he pulled the first ball he faced from James Faulkner, in the 15th over, beyond the square leg boundary. Stokes clattered Dwayne Smith for six and four in the next over, and Rising Pune were left needing 44 off the last four.

They still didn’t have too much batting left in the hut, though, and when Dhoni holed out to long-off, first ball of the next over, the balance seemed to swing Lions’ way, particularly with Stokes struggling with cramps.

Christian showed just the calmness a new batsman might need in that situation; he chopped Faulkner away past point when he got a loose ball, but otherwise kept bringing Stokes on strike – there would be no dots in his eight-ball innings.

Stokes’ hitting down the ground, crucially, wasn’t hampered by his cramps. With Rising Pune needing 25 off 12, he hit Thampi for two sixes – one just clearing a leaping Brendon McCullum at long-on, one just clearing a leaping Aaron Finch at long-off – before collapsing at the non-striker’s end after taking a single off the last ball. A bit of assistance from the physio, and he was back on his feet.

By then, Pune only needed eight off the last over, and a flat-bat clatter through the covers off the first ball of the last over halved their ask and moved him from 98 to 102. It eventually came down to one off two balls, and with the field brought in, Christian mowed Faulkner into the stands behind the square leg boundary.

Credit:@ESPN Sports Media Ltd.