Doha: India Maharajas ruled over Asia Lions through skipper Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa’s spectacular unbeaten 159 runs opening partnership to record an emphatic 10-wicket victory in the fourth match of the Skyexch.net Legends League Cricket (LLC) Masters at the Asian Town Cricket Stadium in Doha. The opening pair set ablaze the Stadium demolishing the Asia Lions’ attack with Uthappa cracking an unbeaten 88 off 39 balls with 11 boundaries and five sixes while Gambhir scored an unconquered 61 off 36 balls with 12 boundaries.
Electing to field first, India Maharajas had restricted Asia Lions to 157 for 5 in 20 overs. For Asia Lions, Upul Tharanga cracked 69 off 48 balls with seven boundaries and two sixes while Tillakaratne Dilshan scored 32 off 27 balls with four boundaries and a six. Together they put on 73 runs opening partnership in 8.4 overs, which however went in vain.
India Maharajas bowled their left-arm pacer Irfan Pathan to begin proceedings, and he gave away just three runs in the first over. The first boundary of the day came from opener Upul Tharanga, who fluently cover drove Ashok Dinda. Opener Tillakaratne Dilshan also cover-drove Dinda for a boundary in the same over. Pathan’s third over was equally brilliant giving away just four runs. Dilshan lifted Dinda to the mid-wicket fence for yet another boundary, slowly but steadily building a strong opening partnership.
Stuart Binny’s first delivery of the fifth over was nicely cut away by Tharanga to the backward point fence. Tharanga escaped being caught behind to an outside edge to the third delivery when wicketkeeper Robin Uthappa dropped him at 21. Tharanga celebrated his escape by picking a boundary to the long leg of the next delivery. When Dilshan too hit Binny to the square leg fence, 16 runs came off that over.
Yusuf Pathan was introduced for the sixth over and Tharanga hit the second ball to the cover point fence and a 50 runs partnership came in by the end of the powerplay. Irfan Pathan was re-introduced for the seventh over to check the run flow, which he did, giving away only six runs. India Maharajas introduced their strike bowler Harbhajan Singh for the eighth over, and he too gave away only five runs.
Dilshan hit Binny’s second and third delivery of the second over for a six over square leg. Then Binny struck with the fourth ball forcing Dilshan on 32 to cut in the air and Irfan Pathan took the catch at short third man. Mohammad Hafeez, going for a wild swing at the accurate Harbhajan, missed the fifth delivery of the tenth over and was adjudged leg before wicket for 2.
At the halfway mark, Asia Lions were 76 for 2 with Misbah Ul Haq, the hero of their first two matches joining Tharanga. The age-less 51-year-old leg spinner Pravin Tambe took the valuable wicket of Misbah, brilliantly stumped by wicketkeeper Uthappa for a duck. Now the run flow began to dip with Harbhajan giving away just one run from the 12th over. Asghar Afghan hit the first delivery of the 15th over from Tambe for a six-over long-off. Tharanga reached his half-century in 41 balls with six boundaries but Asghar Afghan got out leg before to Raina for 15.
Tharanga hit a straight six off Tambe in the 17th over and also swept him for a boundary off successive balls. He then hit Raina for another six to mid-wicket, but while attempting another similar shot he was caught by Manvinder Bisla at wide long-on for 69. Abdul Razzaq known for his big shots hit Dinda for a boundary to backward point and also a six off successive balls to remain unbeaten on 27 off 17 balls with two boundaries and two sixes. This also ensured Asia Lions a total of over 150 runs. Finally ending with a total of 157/5 off their 20.
India Maharajas on the other hand were brutal and chased the target down with their consistent scorer and skipper Gautam Gambhir and on-song Robin Uthappa. They negotiated the pace of Sohail Tanvir and Mohammad Amir confidently with Uthappa picking two boundaries off Amir’s second over. An elegant cover drive by Gambhir off Tanvir in the third over was a treat to watch. He followed it up with two more consecutive boundaries. When Uthappa too hit Tanvir’s last ball of the third over for a boundary through the covers, 20 runs came off that over. He had bowled three consecutive wide balls too in that over.
Off-spinner Mohammad Hafeez was introduced for the fifth over, hoping to check the run flow. Gambhir hit two consecutive boundaries off Hafeez’s fifth and sixth ball to register a 50-run opening partnership in five overs.
Left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak who bowled brilliantly against World Giants in the third match was introduced for the sixth over. Uthappa cut him for a boundary and hit two consecutive boundaries of the fifth and sixth deliveries to take 14 runs off that over. The powerplay thus yielded 65 runs.
Shoaib Akhtar bowled the seventh over cheered by the crowd. Uthappa pulled his fourth and last delivery for boundaries with a few from the crowd shouting as to what happened to his express deliveries. Hafeez, who bowled the ninth over, was pulled by Uthappa over mid-wicket into the stands for three consecutive sixes to race to his half-century in just 27 balls. He also picked a boundary and took 23 runs off that over. The onslaught continued against Isuru Udana with Uthappa and Gambhir picking boundaries with ease.
At the halfway mark, India Maharajas needed just 33 runs in the last 60 balls. Gambhir reached his half-century in 32 balls and steered his team to victory with 45 balls to spare.
India Maharajas bt Asia Lions by 10 wkts.
157 for 5 in 20 overs
(Upul Tharanga 69, Tillakaratne Dilshan 32, Abdul Razzaq 27 not out, Suresh Raina 2 for 16)
India Maharajas 159 for no loss in 12.3 overs
(Robin Uthappa 88 not out, Gautam Gambhir 61 not out)
Misbah Ul Haq, Shahid Afridi shape Asia Lions’ impressive 35-run win over World Giants