One of the most consistent performers in the Indian Premier League (IPL) so far, Gujarat Lions defeated Rising Pune Supergiants (RPS) by three wickets to register their sixth win in seven matches this season.
The batting might of Gujarat once again came to the fore as they notched up the compelling total of 195 runs on the last ball in a thrilling finish at the Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) stadium in Pune.
Riding on the blistering innings of Steve Smith - who smashed a 54-ball 101, the hosts would have surely felt comfortable after posting the second-highest total in the IPL this year. But, a valuable contribution from Gujarat's top-order took the game away from the RPS.
It was the second instance that a batsman scoring a hundred against Gujarat ended up on the losing side. Prior to Smith, Royal Challengers Bangalore captain Virat Kohli - who scored his maiden T20 hundred - suffered a similar fate after his side failed to defend 180 against the Lions.
Swashbuckling openers Dwayne Smith (63) and Brendon McCullum (43), once again, turned out to be the catalyst in Gujarat's successful run-chase. Scoring at a run-rate of 8.85, the duo helped their side accumulate 72 runs in the powerplay overs.
The two batsmen went on to add 93 runs for the first wicket before Rajat Bhatia ended McCullum's blitzkrieg in the ninth over. The right-handed batsman went for a slog sweep, only to miscue it towards Albie Morkel at short fine leg.
On the very next delivery, Smith smacked Bhatia towards the cow corner for a boundary and notched up his half-century in just 28 deliveries. He continued to assault the opposition bowlers after hitting Ravichandran Ashwin for two consecutive fours in the 10th over.
With Smith looking in slam-bang mode, Pune desperately needed a wicket to get a grip on the game. Thisara Perera, who had conceded 14 runs in his first over, came back into the attack and dismissed Smith on a steaming yorker.
Suresh Raina (34) and Dinesh Karthik (33) steadied the chase for Gujarat after a 51-run stand for the third wicket. With 35 runs needed from 24 balls, Karthik was looking to go after Ashok Dinda when he was caught in the deep by Ajinkya Rahane.
The game was headed for a close finish following the two quick wickets of Dwayne Bravo (7) and Ravindra Jadeja (0) in the penultimate over. But, Raina eked out a crucial boundary on the fifth delivery of Dinda to calm the nerves for his side.
It all came down to the final over where Gujarat required nine runs off the last six deliveries. James Faulkner (9*) hammered Perera's first delivery towards the square leg fence for a boundary as the tensions soared high.
But, the visitors suffered another setback after they lost their captain Raina and young Ishan Kishan (0) off successive deliveries with Pune eyeing their chances. Requiring three runs off the last two balls, birthday boy Faulkner picked up a couple on the second-last delivery before sneaking a single to secure a last-ball win for his side.
Pune's frontline bowlers Morkel (0-30) and Dinda (2-40) were a tad too expensive for Dhoni's liking as the duo conceded over 10 runs an over. Perera, who took two wickets for 41 runs, also conceded at 10.25 runs an over.
Earlier, the hosts got off to a bad start after losing their opener Saurabh Tiwary (1) in the third over. Ajinkya Rahane (53) and Smith added 111 runs for the second wicket to turn the tables on the opposition.
Smith, who smashed eight fours and five sixes in his 54-ball innings, became only the seventh Australian to score a hundred in the IPL history. The Aussie batting sensation was given a second life at a score of 40 when he chopped the ball back onto the stumps, only for the umpires to rule it an over-stepped no-ball.
Rahane also brought up his fifty in 43 balls before getting run-out in the 14th over. Skipper Dhoni walked out in the middle and gave full support to Smith as the two added 64 runs for the third wicket in just 35 deliveries.
Smith notched up his maiden hundred in the shortest format off 53 deliveries before getting bowled by Bravo in the final over. Dhoni smashed a crucial boundary on the final ball to help Pune finish their innings on a high.
With 12 points to their name, Gujarat are way ahead from the other teams at the top spot with just one loss in the tournament so far. On the other hand, it was Pune's fifth defeat in seven matches as they languish at the sixth spot in the IPL points table.