Never has a total of 183 been chased down without a wicket being lost in T20s, until today. Chris Lynn announced his arrival with a monstrous knock (93 off 41) that blew away Gujarat Lions. Together with Gautam Gambhir (76), he put on the highest ever opening stand in IPL history as Kolkata Knight Riders started their campaign with a thumping victory inside 15 overs.
What hit Gujarat Lions?
Lynnsanity first. With a dose of Gambhir's class. Gujarat Lions simply didn't seem prepared for this change from KKR. Changing a prolific opening combination of Gambhir-Robin Uthappa was a gutsy move from the think-tank. And boy, did it pay off. The pair recorded the highest ever stand for KKR in IPL history with Chris Lynn's strike-rate of 226.83 making Gambhir's 158.33 look like a jog in comparison. While Lynn was busy tonking balls into the stands, leaving little to the imagination of how a right-handed Chris Gayle would bat, Gambhir eased into his knock but didn't let the intensity drop too far down at the other end. The pure, brute force of Lynn coupled with Gambhir's tenacity has already made this the opening combination to watch out for in this season of IPL. Gujarat Lions will vouch for that.
Where are the bowlers?
Gujarat Lions are missing two of their frontline bowlers in Dwayne Bravo and Ravindra Jadeja but that said, today's attack looked far from threatening at any point. Praveen Kumar, Manpreet Gony, Dhawal Kulkarni and Dwayne Smith look like a support cast than the main lead of any attack. Shivil Kaushik and Shadab Jakati were taken apart by the nimble-footed Gambhir. And Suresh Raina had nobody to turn to for some control as the openers put on a stunning show. It's easy to hide fielders but where would you hide your bowlers in a game? The Gujarat Lions think-tank will need to do some quick thinking to get that in order. Maybe James Faulkner can come in. But none of them could have probably countered the kind of assault Lynn launched into. There was room for improvement certainly but even their best might not have matched up to Lynn today.
Could it have been any different?
Yes. Perhaps, it could have. At the halfway stage, Gujarat Lions would have fancied defending a total of 183. Surely that was a competitive total in T20s on any kind of pitch. For that they had to thank, Dinesh Karthik's glorious hitting and Suresh Raina's chancy knock. The latter was dropped twice, survived a run-out chance and miscued numerous deliveries through his unbeaten 68, but fought it out to take his team to a good total. There was nothing more that you could have asked of him. And Karthik carried on his rich domestic form to play some eye-popping shots in the final overs, including a reverse-scoop off Trent Boult in his 47, but it paled in comparison to what Lynn was to showcase later.
For KKR, Chris Woakes was considered to be Andre Russell's replacement, but his 16-run penultimate over gave the Lions a huge boost after Kuldeep Yadav (4-0-25-2) applied the brakes. KKR's fielders, who put on a rather shoddy display by dropping catches and missing runouts, will be thanking Lynn for saving them a lot of embarrassment. But at the halfway stage, Gujarat Lions had their noses slightly ahead only for it all to be brought crashing down.
Just how good is Chris Lynn?
One of the best, if you ask those who have played the Big Bash League in Australia. He's surely come into his own as a T20 batsman over the last few years. His game plan is simple. To stamp his front foot out and smash anything that comes with sheer muscle-power. That's exactly what you need in T20s. The bowling from Gujarat Lions was neither quick enough nor skillful enough to challenge him. And KKR's punt on him as an opener might just be their X-factor for this season. Eight sixes and six fours in a 41-ball 93 will be quite hard to better, or even match through the rest of the season. But not so perhaps if you are Lynnsane.
Where do they go from here?
Gujarat Lions will travel to Hyderabad for their game against the Sunrisers on April 9. David Warner's men have already got off to a winning start in this season and the batsmen will well be looking forward to face off against Gujarat's bowling after today. KKR will travel to Mumbai for their game on the same day. Their record against Mumbai Indians isn't the greatest but after such a resounding start, they will be looking to take on anything that comes their way.
Scores at a glance: Gujarat Lions 183/4 in 20 overs (Suresh Raina 68*, Dinesh Karthik 47; Kuldeep Yadav 2-25) lost to Kolkata Knight Riders 184/0 in 14.5 overs (Chris Lynn 93*, Gautam Gambhir 76*) by ten wickets.