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IPL 2017: Dwayne Smith’s innings against KXIP proved that he’s at his best while opening

Their season may be over, but the Gujarat Lions have not given up just yet as they defeated playoff chasing Kings XI Punjab in Mohali on Sunday night. Despite more struggles for their toothless bowling attack it was an easy win for the Lions as Dwayne Smith finally fired in this year’s tournament after struggling while he moved up and down the batting order with alarming regularity. Chasing 190, his innings set up a win that had some alarms along the way but was straightforward in the end.

Things haven’t gone right for the Lions right from the beginning and they haven’t got any better. First Dwayne Bravo wasn’t fit and never made it on to the field. They finally started picking Andrew Tye and then he got injured. They haven’t played Jason Roy and now he has decided that he won’t return for their final group games. Then Brendon McCullum joined the long list of injured players.

A lot of their problems have been of their own making, from getting it wrong at the auction, to picking the wrong team for the majority of the matches and then putting the players they did pick in the wrong positions.

Dwayne Smith of the Gujarat Lions hits a six against Kings XI Punjab. Sportzpics/IPL

Dwayne Smith of the Gujarat Lions hits a six against Kings XI Punjab. Sportzpics/IPL

The player who has been out of position the most often has been Smith who is finally back opening the batting and, thanks to a not inconsiderable amount of luck, has found some form to record his first half century of the 2017 Indian Premier League.

If you are going to pick Smith, and there is every reason to select a man who has a brilliant record in IPL with the Chennai Super Kings, he has to be at the top of the order. The harder ball and the fielding restrictions allow him full license to use his powerful build to muscle the ball over the boundary. In the middle order slightly more nuance is needed and that just doesn’t suit Smith’s game. That the two really significant opening stands for the Lions have come when Smith was at the top of the order is no coincidence.

Smith was dropped twice early on in his innings as he made 74 from 39 balls but his knock was replete with the kind of booming drives with which he has become synonymous. Smith is just the latest in a number of Caribbean cricketers to have walked away from international cricket so it is tournaments like the IPL that will make up what is left of his career. If the Lions are done away with to make way for the return of CSK and the Rajasthan Royals next season, Smith will be looking for a new employer. This innings was a timely reminder of what he still offers.

Suresh Raina also benefited from some poor fielding when he was on 36 with Gurkeerat Singh dropping him. However, he did not make the most of it as Gurkeerat finally held a catch in the next over to dismiss the Lions’ skipper for 39. In the process Raina became the first man to pass 4,500 runs in the IPL. He has 434 runs this year, more than 100 more than his next most successful team mate. He may not be in the playoffs this year, but he has acquitted himself well.

As ever, the Lions were chasing more runs than they would have hoped for as Hashim Amla scored his second T20 hundred of this IPL, and the second of his career, as he brilliantly mixed traditional cricket shots with innovation. The shot he played to a Basil Thampi wide yorker that saw him change his mind at the last minute and reverse lap the ball to the third man boundary was just delicious.

The cupboard is pretty bare when it comes to bowling options within the Lions squad and in Sunday’s game the only bowler that was really impressive was Dhawal Kulkarni who went at just a run a ball in his four overs, claiming the wicket of Shaun Marsh along the way.

The Lions actually started pretty well with the ball when Pradeep Sangwan got Martin Guptill in the first over, but from there it was just more of the same as an absence of wickets and the dearth of consistent lines and lengths allowed Marsh and Amla to help themselves to 125 runs for the second wicket.

This is the Lions fourth win of 2017, but it was perhaps their most impressive. Kings XI went into this game knowing that if they won all four of their remaining fixtures they would be in the playoffs. The Lions are now there to make up the numbers. That they pushed Kings XI this hard and emerged victorious is very much to their credit.

The Lions have two more matches to play, and winning both would go some way to repairing their egos which have no doubt been damaged by this year’s IPL. As much as this squad has some very obvious flaws they should not have been eliminated this early and should have been pushing for a place in the latter stages of the tournament.

For most of the players there is always next year, for this team or another one, but they will want to finish with a flourish after being so insipid for the majority of their IPL games in 2017.

Updated Date: May 08, 2017 09:34 AM

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