Kanpur: Dwayne Smith starred with the ball before Suresh Raina struck a sublime half century to guide Gujarat Lions to a six-wicket win over Kolkata Knight Riders, taking them closer to a spot in the play-offs of the Indian Premier League on Thursday.
A timely 59-run run stand between Suresh Raina (53 not out of 36 balls) and Aaron Finch (26) secured the game for Lions after Smith put a stellar show with the ball, ending with career best T20 figures of four for eight.
Lions eventually raced home in 13.3 overs after restricting to KKR to 124/8 at the Green Park Stadium, which hosted its first ever IPL game.
With the win, Lions leaped to second place in the points table having gained 16 points from 13 matches. KKR remained in the play-offs hunt despite the loss and are fourth in the standings with 14 points from 13 matches. Both teams have one match left to play.
The modest chase was going to be a tricky one under the conditions.
The Lions lost their star bowler on the day, Smith, after he got an inside edge to the keeper while attempting a pull on the first ball of the innings. Pacer Ankit Rajpoot provided the important breakthrough.
The other dangerous opener Brendon McCullum too did not hang around for long after hitting a six. Morne Morkel went through the gate of Dinesh Karthik to have Lions in a spot of bother at 38 for three in the fourth over.
What worked well for Lions was that they maintained a healthy run rate even as they lost quick wickets. The experienced Raina, who returned to action following the birth of child, steadied the ship alongside Finch.
With run rate pressure not there, the two batted sensibly to take the team at the doorstep of victory. Finch was unlucky to be run out after he collided with Raina as the pair attempted a third run.
Raina's effort included a straight six off Morkel and seven delightful boundaries. He also went past 4000 runs in the IPL, becoming the second one to do so after Virat Kohli.
Earlier, Smith turned out to be almost unplayable for KKR batsmen after Raina put the opposition on a greenish track.
The Lions made good use of the conditions with the ball moving around.
Openers Robin Uthappa (25) and Gautam Gambhir (8) found it tough in the middle with the ball seaming around, especially negotiating Smith. A struggling Gambhir was given two lives in the field before he got involved in mix-up with Uthappa to be run out.
Smith then dealt a triple blow to leave KKR at 55 for four in 10 overs. The gentle medium pacer got the odd ball seam and jump off the pitch as he had Manish Pandey caught at first slip before Uthappa played a loose shot to be caught behind.
Smith dominated the opposition batsmen and ended up bowling 18 dot balls in his four over spell.
Piyush Chawla, promoted to number four in the batting order, did not last long and was bowled by Smith. Shakib Al Hasan ended being Smith's final victim after he mistimed one to be picked up at third man, reducing KKR to 61 for five in the 12th over.
The in-form Yusuf Pathan (36) and Suryakumar Yadav (17) were able to stitch a handy 41-run partnership but their team needed more from them in the circumstances.
KKR could have got a few more if Pathan did not get out on the second ball of the 18th over. The big hitter ended with three fours and a six in his run a ball effort.