Gujarat Lions coach Brad Hodge monitored the heavy rolling of the 22-yard strip at the end of Mumbai Indians innings on Saturday as he knew it would help his boys chase down any score on this surface.
It proved right when the Suresh Raina-led side outplayed the defending champions by six wickets to finish on top of the points table with 18 points. Sunrisers Hyderabad with 16 points also qualified for the playoffs with 16 points.
Raina left his 33,000-odd home fans on a high with a superb 56 off 36 balls (8x4, 2x6) as Lions romped home in 17.5 overs despite the skipper falling in the 13th over.
It was a shaky start to the chase as Aaron Finch was dismissed the second ball of the innings by Vinay Kumar. Raina, IPL’s highest run-getter who survived two chances, and Brendon McCullam ensured the chase was back on track with a 96-run second-wicket partnership.
Raina hammered Mitchell McClenaghan for three fours and a six in his first over before McCullam hit two fours and a six off Krunal Pandya in the next over. They also collected 19 runs in Jaspreet Bumrah’s second over with Raina hammering a four and six before the former Kiwi skipper hit him for two more fours.
Dwayne Smith (37 no -- 23b, 4x4, 2x6) and Ravindra Jadeja (21 no -- 15b, 4x4) carried the team home from there.
Raina chose to field after winning the toss, and it made a big difference. Barring young Nitish Rana, none could counter the host bowlers. Playing only his fourth IPL match in his debut season, Rana kept the full house entertained with a 36-ball 70.
Rana steadied the MI innings with a 75-run fourth-wicket stand with Jos Buttler, helping the side cross the 100-run mark.
Skipper Rohit Sharma (30) started well and hit two sixes off Dhawal Kulkarni, but another effort off the pacer saw him edge to Shadab Jakati.
Rana and Buttler held fort but Praveen Kumar’s double strike in the last over saw MI finishing on 172 for eight.