Hyderabad: Nicholas Pooran justified his Rs 16 crore billing, pulling off what looked like a difficult chase on a tacky track as Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) were back in the race for playoffs, with a seven-wicket victory over Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in an Indian Premier League match here on Saturday.
A target of 183 was certainly not an easy proposition on a track that got slower as the match progressed.
However, Pooran (44 not out off 13 balls), with assistance from Prerak Mankad (64 not out, 45 balls) and Marcus Stoinis (40 off 25 balls), helped LSG get past the target with four balls to spare.
LSG now have 13 points from 12 games and are in fourth spot behind Gujarat Titans (16 points), CSK (15 points) and Mumbai Indians (14 points). However, they will have to win their next two games to be assured of a berth in the playoffs.
As far as SRH are concerned, another tournament of non-performance is coming to an end with a below-par show.
Till the 15th over, SRH controlled the proceedings as LSG crawled to 114/2, needing 69 more from six overs.
However, Aiden Markram's decision to give an extra over to part-time left-arm spinner Abhishek Sharma, who was walloped for five sixes in the 16th over, proved costly.
Stoinis thumped him for two maximums before being holed out at deep extra cover boundary. But Pooran came in and hit two 100m-plus sixes and one straight to completely change the equation.
Saurashtra's Mankad struggled to get going during the middle overs. But a pep-talk from mentor Gautam Gambhir during strategic time-out saw a sea-change in his approach as he showed more intent, hitting a straight six off T Natarajan.
Earlier, Krunal Pandya produced a couple of back-to-back high quality deliveries before Heinrich Klaasen and Abdul Samad took SRH to a competitive 182/6 after opting to bat.
Not known as a big turner of the ball, LSG skipper Krunal (2/24 in 4 overs) bowled two identical classical left-arm orthodox deliveries, which had drift as well as enough turn to hoodwink Markram (28 off 20 balls) and Glenn Phillips (0).
In the case of Markram, Krunal drew him forward before the ball beat his outside edge to get stumped.
And the same delivery, pitched on same length found Phillips going on back-foot to see it deviate past his bat and peg the off-stump back. That the ball gripped a bit on both occasions also helped the bowler's cause.
However, Klaasen (47 off 29 balls), inarguably SRH's best batter, was at his natural attacking self as his three fours and an equal number of sixes took his team to a respectable total.
Once Krunal's wickets reduced SRH to 115/5, Klaasen took it upon himself and got support from Abdul Samad (37 not out off 25 balls) as the duo added 58 in 6.4 overs.
Towards the end of the SRH innings, the match was briefly stopped when third umpire withheld the on-field umpire's decision of ruling an Avesh Khan full toss as a fair delivery when it looked a no-ball.
That agitated the crowd which forced the LSG dug-out to briefly halt proceedings and Klaasen lost his concentration to miss out on a well-deserved half-century.