New Delhi: Form is temporary, but class is permanent and Ben Stokes showed just that on Monday night as he single-handedly took Pune home at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium. Hitting his maiden IPL ton, Stokes showed just why Pune had shelled out Rs 14.5 crore at the auction. The smile on owner Sanjiv Goenka’s face was understandable as Stokes hit an unbeaten 103 off 63 balls to see his team register a 5 wicket win over Gujarat Lions.
Even as his teammates struggled, Stokes scripted the perfect chase in MS Dhoni’s company as Pune have cemented their place on the fourth spot in the points table. It was not the easiest of wickets and the Gujarat bowlers were on top almost right through the game. But Stokes refused to submit and held his own to play an outstanding knock.
Chasing 162 for a win, Pune had the worst possible start as Pradeep Sangwan sent back Ajinkya Rahane (4) and Steven Smith (4) in the first over. In the next over, Basil Thampi removed Manoj Tiwary for a duck as Pune’s score read 11/3 after 3 overs.
Rahul Tripathi and Ben Stokes looked to re-build the innings and just when it looked like they had brought Pune back into play, especially with Stokes taking apart the bowling, a misunderstanding saw Tripathi (6) get run out even though it was he who called for a double and Stokes answered the call. Pune’s score now read 42/4 in the 6th over as MS Dhoni joined Stokes in the middle.
The two looked to steady the ship because this was the last recognised pair in the middle. They first looked to play out Ankit Soni and Ravindra Jadeja before Stokes decided otherwise as the required run-rate started rising.
Stokes launched into Jadeja in the 10th over as he hit two back-to-back sixes to pick 15 runs off the over. That over brought Pune right back into the game as Stokes opened up and Dhoni was happy to work the singles. Stokes went from strength to strength as he pierced the field with precision and also took the aerial route time and again.
Dhoni too finally opened up as he sent James Faulkner to the mid-wicket stands in the 15th over as he picked on a short one and teed off. Stoke did one better as he plucked 16 runs off Dwayne Smith’s over as Pune’s score read 118/4 after 16 overs.
Unfortunately, Dhoni (26) perished trying to up the ante further as Pune needed 44 from the last 4 overs. Basil Thampi bowled a slower one as Dhoni failed to get the elevation and Brendon McCullum picked a smart catch.
After that, it was a walk in the park and Dan Christian finished the game with a huge six off the penultimate ball as the Pune players ran onto the ground.
Earlier, Steven Smith won the toss and decided to field first at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune. And Gujarat started well with Ishan Kishan and Brendon McCullum scoring freely. Kishan was severe on Washington Sundar after the spinner gave away just 1 run off his first over.
McCullum too joined in as he took apart Stokes. But just when it looked like Gujarat would run away with the game, Imran Tahir sent back Kishan for 31. Slashed that one straight to Washington at short third-man. Gujarat’s score read 55/1 after 6 overs.
And that was the beginning as Pune started clawing back into the game. They next sent back Suresh Raina for 8. A poor judgment saw Raina take on the arm of Rahane and was caught short as Dhoni removed the bails in a flash.
McCullum though did not wish to slow down at looked at every opportunity to score runs. But as luck would have it, Shardul Thakur bowls it wide outside off and McCullum managed to hand an easy catch to Rahane for 45.
Ravindra Jadeja joined Dinesh Karthik in the middle and made his intentions very clear as he set about hitting boundaries all over the park. But Dan Christian bowled the perfect bouncer as Jadeja top-edged the pull straight to Jaydev Unadkat at short fine-leg. Jadeja left for 19 in the 15th over with Gujarat’s score reading 135/6.
Unadkat returned in the 18th over to again pick two wickets in the over, first James Faulkner for 6 and then Sangwan for 1 as it derailed the Gujarat completely. They managed just 6 runs off the last over with one ball remaining as the score read: Gujarat 161 all out.