CHRIS LYNN was beaming ear-to-ear. With pumped fists, the Aussie walked across to give Gautam Gambhir, his KKR captain, a warm hug. It was close to 11 in the evening and the two walked off the lush green turf at the SCA ground. Not too far away, Gujarat Lions, the men dressed in the dark orange jersey, were too shocked to react to what had just transpired in front of them. The match had slipped from their grasp in less than an hour. Defending 183, they were shell-shocked by the brute onslaught from KKR’s opening pair of Lynn and Gambhir.
Lynn, who was playing in his third season, isn’t among the most-recognisable IPL faces. For many who have keenly watched the IPL, he happens to be the one who plucked a miraculous catch in the 2014 edition.
Even after being retained by them in the subsequent editions, a spate of injuries did him in. The Queenslander, however, had made heads turn in the recently concluded Big Bash with his belligerence and brute force. In fact, he had the record for clubbing the maximum number of sixes in that tournament.
On Friday night, he shredded an innocuous Lions’ bowling attack. Opening the innings only for the third time in 87 T20 games, he scored only the second-fastest fifty for the KKR. The 26-year-old gave the thrust from the start, creaming medium pacer Dhawal Kulkarani for a six. He was also particularly harsh on Dwayne Smith, scoring 23 runs in the one-time India bowler’s very first over. From there on, the game was heading in only one direction. Against an insipid bowling attack, every hit from Lynn looked more monstrous than the other.
The whirlwind start gave Gambhir the freedom to open up, muscling boundaries after getting well set. They matched each other shot for shot, chasing down what looked like a competitive score of 184 in just a shade over 14 overs without losing a single wicket. This was a record in this format. After the heist, captain Gambhir lavished praise on his young opener. “You cannot ask for anything more from Lynny. He took the pressure off me, and the bowlers too did a fantastic job in the first innings. We are going to give Lynny a long run,” he claimed.
Raina’s charmed life
SURESH RAINA is an extremely fidgety batsman. At the crease, he is always on the move, constantly looking to anticipate and out-wit the opposition bowlers. While the purists may scoff at his unorthodox technique, it’s something that has fetched him truckloads of runs, especially in T20 cricket — a format he relishes.
On a muggy evening in Rajkot, Raina exasperated the Kolkata Knight Riders players. Walking in at No.3, the Gujarat Lions captain swivelled, moved back and forth, to register an unbeaten half-century. His knock was filled with the usual histrionics, but he was no where close to his best.
After battling illness and then having spent considerable time away from the game, he was now dropped from BCCI’s central contracts. All this did not affect the 30-year-old, as he rode on his luck and prospered. Yes, he crunched and swatted some blistering boundaries. In between all the mayhem, he was dropped twice, and watched a few swirl in the evening sky and land in no-man’s land, much to the chagrin of the KKR fielders. In the process, Raina overtook the prolific Royal Challengers captain, Virat Kohli, to move to the top spot in the list of the highest run-getters in the IPL.
If Raina led a charmed existence, Dinesh Karthik at the other end, looked peerless. The veteran Tamil Nadu stumper was coming into this tournament on the back of a bumper List A season, having accrued over 850 runs over the course of 12 innings, which was also replete with some match-winning knocks. He maintained a brisk tempo during his stay, opening up towards the fag end of the innings, with a flurry of boundaries against Trent Boult.
The Raina-Karthik alliance was worth 97 runs, and it came in just a shade over 10 overs. This, in the end, propelled Lions’ to a score of 183. On a flat Rajkot track, it looked like they were atleast 20 runs short. The home side had incorporated a bevy of overseas batting superstars in their lop-sided line-up. That proved to be their undoing. Brendon McCullum and Aaron Finch all got attractive starts, but none of them stepped up to play a knock of any significance. In the end, it was upto the Indian duo to give the innings the much-needed impetus.