Gambhir, Uthappa Help India Maharajas Revive Campaign With Thumping Win

Captain Gautam Gambhir and wicketkeeper-batsman Robin Uthappa rolled back the years to power India Maharajas to a facile 10-wicket win over Asia Lions in the Legends League Cricket (LLC) Masters at Doha’s Asian Town Cricket Stadium on Tuesday.

Uthappa put the Asia Lions attack to the sword, hitting 11 boundaries and five sixes on his way to an unbeaten 88 off just 39 balls. At the other end, his former India teammate Gambhir took just 36 balls to reach a score of 61 not out with 12 hits to the fence. This power-packed display by the former Kolkata Knight Riders duo ensured that the India Maharajas, who had suffered two defeats in their first two matches, not just picked up a much-needed win but also shored up their net run rate.

Earlier, Asia Lions made a good-looking start, having been put into bat by the India Maharajas, but 157/5 is all that they could manage in their allotted 20 overs. Former Sri Lanka openers Upul Tharanga and Tillakaratne Dilshan gave the Lions a solid foundation, stitching together 73 runs for the first wicket in just under nine overs. Dilshan was dismissed by Stuart Binny for a steady 32 off 27 balls while Tharanga went on to score 69 off 48 balls with seven fours and a couple of hits over the boundary. Former Pakistan all-rounder Abdul Razzaq played a cameo, scoring 27 not out off 17 balls with two fours and two sixes.

For India Maharajas, Harbhajan Singh and Irfan Pathan were the standout bowlers, giving away just 12 runs off four overs and 13 runs off three overs respectively, while Ashok Dinda and Binny were taken for runs.

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India Maharajas bowled their left-arm pacer Irfan to begin proceedings, and he gave away just three runs in the first over. The first boundary of the day came from Tharanga, who fluently drove Dinda towards cover. Dilshan also cover-drove Dinda for a boundary in the same over. Irfan’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.

Binny’s first delivery of the fifth over was cut away by Tharanga to the backward point fence. Tharanga escaped being caught behind to an outside edge to the third delivery when 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.

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 two.

At the halfway mark, Asia Lions were 76/2 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.

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India Maharajas, in reply, were brutal and chased the target down easily, cantering to 159/0 in just 12.3 overs. Gambhir and Uthappa negotiated the pace of Sohail Tanvir, Mohammad Amir and Shoaib Akhtar.

Uthappa picked up two boundaries in 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 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 power play thus yielded 65 runs.

Shoaib Akhtar bowled the seventh over cheered on by the crowd. Uthappa pulled his fourth and last delivery for boundaries. 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. No Asia Lions bowlers were spared and the onslaught continued against Isuru Udana and Thisara Perera too.

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.

Brief scores: Asia Lions 157/5 in 20 overs (Upul Tharanga 69, Tillakaratne Dilshan 32; Suresh Raina 2/16) lost to India Maharajas 159/0 in 12.3 overs (Robin Uthappa 88 not out, Gautam Gambhir 61 not out) by 10 wickets.

With IANS inputs.

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