Chandigarh: Brendon McCullum’s absence from their line-up threw an important question for Gujarat Lions -- who will replace him at the top of the order. McCullum’s injury has forced him to leave Indian Premier League 2017 in the middle and left the opening slot empty.
And when Kings XI Punjab posted 189 for the loss of three wickets batting first, Gujarat needed an aggressive opener alongside Ishan Kishan. They had a choice between Dwayne Smith and Aaron Finch. Smith, who had been coming down the order, hadn’t had a fruitful IPL but Finch has performed in the limited opportunities he got.
But, Gujarat decided to go for Smith and he repaid the faith with a stunning innings 74 runs off 39 balls, which overshadowed Hashim Amla’s second century of IPL 2017 and set up a six-wicket win for Gujarat.
The loss dearly affected Kings XI’s chances of qualifying for the play-offs as they remained fifth in the points table with 10 points from 11 games. They now have to win all their remaining matches and hope Sunrisers Hyderabad lose one of their remaining two matches.
Gujarat, who were already out of play-off contention, moved up to the sixth spot, overtaking Delhi Daredevils, who also have eight points but have a worse net run-rate than Guajrat.
The visitors were cruising in the chase until the 18th over in which Sandeep Sharma picked up two wickets, of Suresh Raina and Aaron Finch, to revive some hope for Kings XI.
But Dinesh Karthik used all his experience and guided his team home with two balls remaining. He remained unbeaten after playing a 35-run innings off 22 balls.
Earlier, Amla scored his second century of the season, 104 off 59 balls, to help Kings XI recover from a slow start and posted an above par total.
After being asked to bat first, the home team lost Martin Guptill in the first over and were 44 for the loss of one wicket after the powerplay. It was only Shaun Marsh and Amla who got a move on and shifted gears to lift the team to 127 for 1 in 93 balls before Marsh was dismissed after scoring his half-century.
Amla completed his century with a six on the fourth ball off the final over but was dismissed on the next. This is the second time that he has ended up on the losing side after scoring a century. Even after his century against Mumbai Indians, Kings XI suffered a loss.
Kings XI Punjab - 189 for 3 (Amla 104, Marsh 58)
Gujarat Lions - 192 for 4 (Smith 74, Raina 39, Karthik 35*, Sandeep 2-29)
Result - Gujarat Lions won by six wickets