Ashley Nurse’s ton goes in vain as Kevin O’Brien’s century helps Gujarat Giants win in anti-climactic fashion

Eden Gardens was treated to a double delight as Kevin O’Brien’s century obliterated Ashley Nurse’s to guide the Gujarat Giants to a convincing win over the India Capitals by three wickets in Kolkata on Saturday.

It was a night of uncanny symmetry. After being put into bat, Nurse took things in his own control and blasted a scintillating 103* off 43 balls to propel the Capitals to 179 for 7. But Giants’ O’Brien matched him stroke-for-stroke as his 106 off 61 deliveries helped them chase down the target with eight balls to spare.

Interestingly, both centurions were dropped – Nurse on 34 and O’Brien on 1 & 93 – early in their innings. And both of them reached their milestone with a six. West Indian Nurse, though, was adjudged Player of the Match.

India Capitals’ batting didn’t look promising on paper, and their start did nothing to defy it. Captain Virender Sehwag handing the second over to left-arm spinner KP Apanna was a sign of things to come. And the former RCB bowler lived up to expectations. Extracting considerable turn from the onset, the 33-year-old removed opener Hamilton Masakadza and skipper Jacques Kallis in a sensational fourth over.

Pacer Rayad Emrit and England’s legendary off-spinner Graeme Swann also joined the party, as the Capitals were reduced to 34 for 4 in the seventh over. Sehwag rotated his bowlers well, and they also put up a disciplined performance by hardly offering anything full and bowling to their field.

However, the West Indian duo of Denesh Ramdin and Ashley Nurse breathed some life into the innings. In a counter-attacking partnership, they took the aerial route to string together 40 runs off 33 balls. But the tide again turned as Sri Lankan all-rounder Thisara Perera (2 for 16) struck twice in as many deliveries to send back Ramdin (31 off 27) and ex-KKR player Rajat Bhatia.

Nurse, making the most of the let-off, continued in the same flow and brought up a hundred for the ages, off 41 balls. The 33-year-old sent the full-length deliveries into the ‘V’, while the back-of-length stuff was pummeled in front of square on the leg side. Even Apanna (2 for 36) was plundered for two sixes and a boundary in his final over.

As Nurse started the final act with four overs remaining, the prospect of a century started whispering around. By the time Mitchell McClenaghan (0 for 45) was standing at the top of his mark to bowl the last over, the sparse Eden crowd was almost doing chair squats in anticipation.

When the moment finally arrived, it lived up to its hype. A waist-high full toss – though wasn’t given – was helped on its way behind square for his ninth six, before the Barbadian unlocked his helmet and let out a warcry. Despite conceding a dot off the last ball of the innings, Ashley Nurse walked off to a standing ovation. 74 runs came in the final five overs as the India Capitals amassed a competitive 179 for 7.

Kevin O’Brien doesn’t win Player of Match but wins Gujarat Giants opening tie

Kevin O'Brien scored 106 off 61 balls to take the match away from India Capitals [Credits: LLC]
Kevin O’Brien scored 106 off 61 balls to take the match away from India Capitals [Credits: LLC]

In reply, Kevin O’Brien continued from he left last night. The Irish all-rounder gave the Gujarat Giants a brisk start – helped by the Capitals bowling down the leg side – before Mitchell Johnson (1 for 22) scalped the big fish in Virender Sehwag (6 off 10).

There was no stopping O’Brien, though. The 38-year-old hit Uttar Pradesh left-arm spinner Praveen Gupta for two boundaries and a six in the seventh over to record a second successive fifty, off 27 deliveries. The required rate dropped to 8.07, as the Capitals were forced to seek a timeout.

Parthiv Patel overcame a slow start, as the second-wicket partnership threatened to put the result beyond doubt. But Nurse could do nothing wrong. The off-spinner yorked Patel (24 off 13) to break the burgeoning 70-run second-wicket stand.

While former KKR player Yashpal Singh (21 off 20) was struggling to rotate strike, Kevin O’Brien, who stroked an astonishing 15 boundaries in his innings, looked determined to see his team over the line. After a couple of quiet overs, he unleashed his fury, blasting left-arm pacer Pawan Suyal for twin boundaries and depositing Pravin Tambe for two more maximums straight back over. Unlike Nurse, O’Brien somehow seemed destined for a ton. Thus, when the second six came off the leggie, both his and the crowd’s celebrations were subdued.

There was still some drama left in the night, although not enough to upend the result. With a mere nine runs required from the final three overs, Liam Plunkett (2 for 23) and Tambe (3 for 28) picked up two wickets apiece in as many overs to halt the departing spectators.

However, in an anti-climactic end, a wide down the leg side from Tambe helped the Giants go home with the two points.

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