Kanpur: Debutants Gujarat Lions (GL) became the first team to confirm a play-off berth with a thumping six-wicket win over defending champions Mumbai Indians (MI) in their Indian Premier League (IPL) encounter in Kanpur on Saturday.
Their win also mean that Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), who are also 16 points, will qualify for play-offs even if they lose to Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in their final group league game on Sunday.
Chasing a stiff target of 173, Lions hunted down the formidable Mumbai outfit in 17.5 overs with their skipper Suresh Raina (58 off 36 balls) again showing that when it comes to big games in the IPL, he simply has no peers.
With Brendon McCullum (48, 27 balls), Raina added 96 in nine overs to set up the game up for the Lions.
If Raina and McCullum started the carnage, it was Dwayne Smith (37 not out, 23 balls), who successfully completed the chase with a flourish hitting with four boundaries and two sixes in company of Ravindra Jadeja (21 not out in 15 balls)
His innings was laced with eight fours and two sixes as it took Lions to 18 points which ensured that they would be among the top two teams in the four-team play-offs.
For MI, it will all depend on the results of Sunday's double headers as they now have to pray that KKR lose against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) to help them get another shot at the title.
The difference between the two teams was the whopping 48 dot balls that Gujarat Lions bowled and poor fielding that cost MI atleast 15 runs.
Mumbai Indians started well with R Vinay Kumar trapping Aaron Finch (0) leg before with a delivery that straightened after pitching.
However there were no reasons to smile after Finch dismissal as Raina and McCullum -- two of the most explosive players 1 took the MI attack to the cleaners with some decisive hitting.
They scored at a brisk rate, taking minimal risks, as the right-left combination matched each other stroke for stroke.
It was McCullum, who hit the first boundary off Jasprit Bumrah with a drive through mid-off. Having helped himself with another clip off pads off Vinay's bowling, the former New Zealand captain was in his element when Krunal Pandya with his flat left-arm orthodox was introduced into the attack.
There were two boundaries and a six off Krunal's over as Lions started putting the pressure on MI.
Bumrah, Harbhajan all lost their lengths and were punished by McCullum. He was finally bowled by a Harbhajan off-break having hit eight fours and a six.
But there was no stopping Raina as he played his trademark lofted cover drives, whipped off deliveries behind square completing his half-century in 30 balls.
The MI bowlers tried to pepper the Lions captain with short deliveries but he was equal to the task as he slashed one off Mitchell McClenaghan over third man for a six apart from three fours from the same over. Raina's second six was over deep mid-wicket off Bumrah's bowling.
Even after McCullum left, Raina did not let the tempo down as he carried on playing his natural game before he played a poor shot off Bumrah giving Jos Buttler an easy catch.
But Smith saw to it that there were no hiccups in the chase as he hit couple mighty sixes off Harbhajan's bowling.
Delhi youngster Nitish Rana played the most eventful innings of his nascent career as his scintillating 70 enabled Mumbai Indians post a competitive 172 for eight against Gujarat Lions after being put into bat.
Left-handed Rana blasted the Lions attack to hit seven fours and four sixes in only 36 balls. There were useful contributions from skipper Rohit Sharma (30 off 17 balls), Jos Buttler (33 off 31 balls) at the top of the order.
In fact after Rohit's brief onslaught initially, it was Rana-Buttler combination that added 75 runs in 8.5 overs to lay the foundation for a decent total.
For Lions, Dwayne Bravo was the best bowler on view with figures of 2/23 in four overs with 10 dot balls to his credit. Praveen Kumar (2/24 in four overs) was also impressive.
Mumbai Indians did lose momentum after Rana's dismissal as the last three overs produced only 19 runs and they lost four wickets in the bargain. Hardik Pandya (7 from 8 balls) wasted precious deliveries at the end.
The MI innings was all about young Rana's coming of age in his first IPL season (he was in MI squad last year but did not get a chance) and showing that he is one of the cleanest hitters among emerging T20 players in the country.
Having made a name for himself with his six-hitting prowess for Delhi in the Syed Mushtaq Ali National T20 meet, Rana finally showed what he is capable of with his muscular shots predominantly on the leg-side.
With fetish for pulling anything short, Rana started by pulling Dhawal Kulkarni towards square leg and then played a few singles.
His first release shot was a a slog sweep as he dragged a Ravindra Jadeja delivery over long-on for his first six.
He then muscled Dwayne Smith over cow corner for his second six. The third big hit was another slow sweep this time off Shadab Jakati while fourth was off Kulkarni over mid-wicket.
He treated the spinners especially Jakati with a lot of contempt hitting him for three boundaries in an over including one which brought up his maiden IPL 50 off only 28 balls.
He was finally dismissed when he failed to clear the deep square fielder Kulkarni off a Bravo slower.
Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.
Updated Date: May 22, 2016 00:03:09 IST