Over the years, Suresh Raina has come to be counted as one the best players in the limited-overs format. The T20 format in particular has been kind to the 29-year-old. In the past few months though, the going has not been smooth.
In the recently-concluded World T20, Raina got starts but failed to hit the high notes. On Thursday, he lived up to his reputation by scoring his first half-century of the year. The left-handed batsman scored 75 runs off 51 balls to lead Gujarat Lions to a total of 135 after a shaky start to the innings against Sunrisers Hyderabad here.
The knock went in vein as Sunrisers made short work of the Lions total. They chased down the target without losing a wicket, handing the home side their first loss of the season.
Sunrisers skipper David Warner led the charge by smashing an error-free unbeaten knock of 74 off 48 balls. Warner, who had scored an unbeaten 90 in the previous match against Mumbai Indians, continued the rich vein of form. He looked at ease against every Gujarat bowler. The Australia batsman did not go for the big heaves, but instead targeted the gaps.
Warner stitched the season’s first 100-run partnership with the under-performing Shikhar Dhawan, who played perfect foil to skipper’s aggressive batting with an unbeaten 53.
The partnership came at an opportune time for Dhawan, who had been struggling since the WT20. He played a supporting role and kept giving the strike to the more confident Warner at the other end. He eventually cut loose when the target was within sight.
While the Sunrisers top order stayed strong, the same was not the case for the Lions. Opener Aaron Finch perished in the first over, and partner Brendon McCullum got a start but soon fell to leave the home side in a spot of bother.
Raina was the lone warrior. He produced a sedate innings which was uncharacteristic of his swashbuckling style. He curbed his natural instincts and played the anchor role for the side. However, thanks to some accurate bowling from the opposition, runs came at a premium.
Sunrisers bowlers used the two-paced track well, giving very little away. Raina managed to smash nine boundaries during the knock but sixes remained elusive.
The lack of big hits came back to haunt the batsmen as some fine death bowling by pacers Mustafizur Rahman and Bhuvneshwar Kumar crippled Gujarat’s hopes of setting a challenging total.