World Giants pulled off a thrilling two-run win over India Maharajas in the second match of the Legends League Cricket (LLC) Masters at the Asia Town Cricket Stadium here.
The edge-of-the-seat thriller followed after World Giants had posted 166 for 8 in 20 overs on Saturday night, riding on skipper Aaron Finch's 53 off 31 balls with seven boundaries and three sixes and Shane Watson's 55 runs off 32 balls with five boundaries and three sixes.
A captain's knock of 68 from Gautam Gambhir and Harbhajan Singh's four-wicket spell for 13 runs for Indian Maharajas, unfortunately, went in vain.
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It was Gambhir's second consecutive half-century after his 54 against Asia Lions in the opener and his 68 in this match came off 42 balls with nine boundaries and one six. With eight runs needed off the last over, Brett Lee gave away just five runs to give the defending champions World Giants a winning start.
Earlier, World Giants won the toss and elected to bat. Chris Gayle, who opened with skipper Aaron Finch, smashed the second delivery from Irfan Pathan to the extra cover boundary. Pathan kept Gayle quiet with the rest of his deliveries.
Harbhajan Singh, who bowled the third over, struck with his first delivery clean bowling Gayle with a beauty that spun in to hit the leg stump. Gayle trying to play a paddle shot, missed the turn and fell for 4. Shane Watson greeted Harbhajan with two consecutive boundaries - the first an elegant sweep to fine leg and another a pull to backward square leg.
Finch then hammered a good length delivery from Ashok Dinda to the mid-wicket fence and flicked the last ball of the fourth over to the square-leg fence.
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Finch was aggressive against Pragyan Ojha, who bowled the fifth over, scoring two consecutive boundaries off the first and second deliveries and then picking two boundaries off the fourth and fifth deliveries. Finch also hit a six off the last ball over extra cover to take 23 runs off that over. Pathan was also not spared by Watson, and with Finch hitting boundaries to mid-wicket and cover. 63 runs came off the powerplay.
Despite the onslaught by Finch, Indian Maharajas skipper Gautam Gambhir continued with Ojha. Finch celebrated the decision by hitting Ojha's second delivery to fine leg and then scoring two consecutive sixes -- both over extra cover. Finch reached his half-century in just 26 balls.
Watson flicked a six off Stuart Binny, who bowled the eighth over. Pravin Tambe, the 51-year-old leg-break bowler, well known for his ability to provide breakthroughs, did it with the last delivery of his first over. He had Finch caught by wicketkeeper Robin Uthappa for 53 runs while attempting a cut shot. Finch's knock came off 31 balls with seven boundaries and three sixes.
World Giants went past the 100-run mark through a classy square-driven boundary from Watson off Irfan Pathan in the 10th over. Tambe bowled a brilliant 11th over giving away just five runs. Watson raced to his half-century hitting Pathan for two sixes in the 12th over. Tambe removed Watson too by having him caught at long-on by Murali Vijay.
Jacques Kallis got out, caught by the agile Mohammad Kaif at mid-wicket off Pathan for 8. Ross Taylor, who had played some lovely knocks in the second edition of this league, and Kevin O'Brien pushed the score to 135 for 4 in 15 overs when Kaif produced another flying catch, diving forward to get Kevin O'Brien out for 4 off Harbhajan Singh. Two balls later, Harbhajan trapped Ross Taylor for 1. One ball after, Harbhajan also had Morne van Wyk (1) sweep and the edge was caught by wicketkeeper Robin Uthappa. Tino Best and Chris Mpofu picked 18 runs off Yusuf Pathan. who bowled the 19th over and World Giants ended up at 166 for 8 in 20 overs.
Chasing a run rate of 8.30, opener Uthappa got into the act after Brett Lee bowled a tight first over giving away just four runs, scoring two boundaries off Tino Best's fourth and sixth deliveries in the second over.
Skipper Gautam Gambhir too picked a boundary off Lee while Uthappa flicked Best for a six and also smashed him for two consecutive boundaries to take 17 runs off the fourth over. The 50-run partnership came in 5.2 overs. Gambhir was severe on Chris Mpofu and hit him for a six over the covers and also scored three boundaries to pick 20 runs off the over.
The 65 runs-opening partnership, fully utilizing the powerplay, ended when Ricardo Powell had Uthappa caught by Kevin O'Brien for 29. Murali Vijay joined Gambhir and maintained the run flow and hit O'Brien for a six over square leg but retired hurt at the score of 91.
Gambhir reached his second consecutive half-century in 28 balls and escaped being caught off to the next ball by O'Brien as Mpofu dropped him at deep mid-wicket. Suresh Raina who replaced Vijay began with a boundary. At the halfway mark, Indian Maharajas were 100 for 1 needing another 67 runs.
Monty Panesar bowled a good 11th over giving away only four runs. Gayle gave away ten runs that included a sweetly-timed boundary from Gambhir to mid-wicket. Panesar once again bowled a tight over giving just six runs.
In the 15th over, Mpofu clean bowled Raina for 19, when India Maharajas needed 37 from 34 balls. Gambhir too got bowled for 68 when 33 runs were needed in 29 deliveries. The two fresh batsmen, Yusuf Pathan and Mohammad Kaif, then kept moving the score towards the target. When 22 runs were needed off 12 balls, Yusuf Pathan was brilliantly caught by Powell for 7 off the bowling of Best. Kaif lifted Mpofu over long on for a six to make it 11 off eight balls.
In the last over, India Maharajas needed eight runs off six balls. Stuart Binny pulled Lee to Powell for 2 to make it seven runs off three balls. With five runs needed off the last ball, Pathan could get only two runs. Lee gave just five runs in the last over to seal victory for his team.
World Giants 166/8 in 20 overs (Aaron Finch 53, Shane Watson 55, Harbhajan Singh 4-13, Pravin Tambe 2-17) beat India Maharajas 164/5 in 20 overs (Robin Uthappa 29, Gautam Gambhir 68, Mohammad Kaif 21 n.o, Ricardo Powell 2-16).