Lucknow : Though Punjab Kings missed the services of regular skipper and opener Shikhar Dhawan due to a niggle, Sikandar Raza stood up to hit his first IPL fifty while Shahrukh Khan applied finishing touches with a late cameo to take the side to a two-wicket triumph over Lucknow Super Giants at the Bharat Ratna Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ekana Cricket Stadium on Saturday.
After stand-in captain Sam Curran picked 3-31, the best figures by a bowler on IPL captaincy debut while Kagiso Rabada to 2-34 to keep Lucknow to 159/8, Raza hit 57 off 41 balls to bring Punjab’s chase on track on a tricky pitch. Shahrukh then slammed 23 not out off just 10 balls to ensure the side’s third victory in the competition.
For Lucknow, who have faced their first loss at home in the ongoing season, questions will be raised over introducing leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi late in the attack, from the 15th over, as well as of captain K.L. Rahul making 74, but taking the anchor role for long in the middle overs.
Lucknow had a fiery start to their defence of 159 as debutant pacer Yudhvir Singh Charak. had Atharva Taide top-edging a pull to third man. On the second ball of his next over, he sent Prabhsimran Singh’s off-stump on a cartwheel ride with a superb nip-backer.
Matthew Short was impressive in his 22-ball 34 — pulling, driving, and flicking with ease against Avesh Khan while taking back-to-back fours on short balls from Yudhvir. He then dispatched an overpitched ball from K Gowtham with a lofted drive over long-on for six.
But the off-spinner had the last laugh as on the last ball of Power-play, Short punched straight to a reverse-cupping mid-off. From ther’, Lucknow’s bowlers kept things under control, as Harpreet Bhatia heaved straight to deep backward square leg off Krunal Pandya in the 11th over, despite surviving a direct-hit chance previously.
Raza injected momentum in the chase by lofting Gowtham down the ground for six, followed by hoicking two sixes and a four off short balls from Krunal through the mid-wicket region in the 13th over.
Though Curran and Jitesh Sharma fell cheaply, Raza marched forward to pull Mark Wood through the gap between deep square leg and fine leg to perfection for four and took a single through deep backward square leg to get his fifty in 34 balls.
With Shahrukh teeing off from the word go by smacking Wood over long-on for six, Raza crunched a drive off Avesh for four to bring the equation to 23 runs needed off 18 balls. But Bishnoi dismissed Raza for 57 after the right-handed batter swept straight to deep backward square leg.
Shahrukh got a top edge on six off Wood while Harpreet Brar drove him through extra cover for four. But the pacer bounced back by getting Brar to edge behind in the penultimate over. After taking two runs each on the first two balls, Shahrukh finished off the chase by hammering Bishnoi through long-off for four to seal the win.
Earlier, captain K.L. Rahul top-scored with 74 off 56 balls in Lucknow’s strange innings. The hosts were at 49/0 in Power-play but made only 62/4 in the middle overs and faltered in the end as Punjab picked four wickets while conceding only 48 runs in the last five overs.
Kyle Mayers began by sweeping Short for a six over deep backward square leg, while Raul hit a stunning lofted inside-out drive over extra cover for four off Rabada. Mayers hit sixes off Curran and Rabada over deep mid-wicket but holed out to deep backward square leg off Brar post-Power-play. Deepak Hooda was then trapped lbw by a skiddy delivery from Raza.
Rahul went for strike-rotation alongside Krunal while cutting off Curran past short third and slapping Arshdeep over mid-on to collect a brace of boundaries. He got his fifty in 40 balls with a lofted drive over Rahul Chahar’s head for four.
But Krunal fell in the 15th over to Rabada, miscuing a pull and Shahrukh at deep mid-wicket flicked the ball in the air, went outside and took the catch on the rebound. The fast bowler then had Nicholas Pooran holing out to deep mid-wicket, falling for a golden duck.
Marcus Stoinis teed off by smacking Chahar for consecutive sixes, but Curran took him out in the 18th over by taking a review on the batter trying to glance through fine leg, and replays showed the ball taking a glove edge behind to the keeper.
Rahul then holed out to long-on off Arshdeep in the 19th over, before Curran had Impact Player Gowtham and Yudhvir holing out to fielders in the deep on consecutive deliveries in the final over to keep Lucknow to one short of 160.
Lucknow Super Giants 159/8 in 20 overs (K.L. Rahul 74, Kyle Mayers 29; Sam Curran 3-31, Kagiso Rabada 2-34) lost to Punjab Kings 161/8 in 19.3 overs (Sikandar Raza 57, Matthew Short 34; Ravi Bishnoi 2-18, Yudhvir Singh Charak 2-19) by two wickets
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