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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

IPL 2022: Titans first among equals

Beat Lucknow Super Giants in a low-scoring top-of-the-table clash to seal playoff berth.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty |
Updated: May 12, 2022 4:49:05 pm
GT defeat LSG by 62 runs. (Photo by Pankaj Nangia / Sportzpics for IPL)

Gujarat Titans’ 144/4 wasn’t a match-winning total. Far from it. But the pitch wasn’t ideal for stroke-play and grafting was the order of the day. Once in a while, such low-scoring games are enjoyable amid an overdose of batting bludgeoning in T20 cricket. Titans won and secured a place in the playoffs because they had Shubman Gill’s class and a well-rounded bowling attack to see them through. A top-heavy Lucknow Super Giants batting imploded once their openers got out cheaply. They were bowled out for 82 to lose by 62 runs.

Gill holds fort

Titans’ innings, for the greater part, was an exercise in sterility, in sync with the stadium atmosphere. Large swathes of empty seats at the MCA Stadium in Pune greeted the two table-toppers and it seemed to have affected the Titans’ batting intensity. The pitch wasn’t a highway and some innovations were needed to up the ante. A couple of soft dismissals didn’t help matters.

After a longish spell on the sidelines, Matthew Wade was brought back to the fold, as Titans made three changes on the heels of two successive losses. Wade started off with back-to-back fours against Dushmantha Chameera but fell to Avesh Khan, trying to play his favourite lap shot through the vacant fine-leg region. He ended up nicking it straight to the wicketkeeper and cursed himself. Avesh didn’t mind a good start.

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Luck was smiling on the fast bowler on the night and Hardik Pandya’s scalp with a loosener, short and wide outside off, was a real bonus. Nine times out of 10, Hardik would dispatch it to the point boundary. On Tuesday though, he got an outside edge to the ’keeper instead. It happened right after the resumption following the first strategic time-out. Maybe, Hardik’s concentration had been affected. Also, he tried to hit the ball a little too hard. The Titans skipper admonished himself.

Electing to bat first, Titans laboured to 35/2 after six overs, their lowest Powerplay score in this IPL. They needed Hardik in the middle overs to up the scoring rate and his dismissal was a setback.

David Miller flattered to deceive and it was down to Gill to give his team’s total a fighting feel. The opener was playing a long game, scoring his runs mainly through singles and doubles, with sprinkles of exquisite hits and a cheeky reverse sweep in between. He brought up his half-century off 42 balls before unleashing a perfect ‘forehand’ against Chameera. The ball went over the bowler’s head to the straight boundary.

Gill had to force the pace now, but Super Giants’ death bowling was disciplined. Mohsin Khan yet again bowled four very impressive overs, returning with 1/18. Avesh was the most successful (2/26). Krunal Pandya bowled a tight spell in the middle overs. Throughout their innings, Titans barely got to a seven-plus run rate. Irrespective of the conditions, they posted a below-par total. It could have been even less, but Super Giants’ ground fielding was average and their catching poor. Deepak Hooda dropped a sitter to give Rahul Tewatia a life on 10. The left-hander hit three fours against Jason Holder in the final over to rub salt into the wound. Gill batted through, remaining unbeaten on 63 off 49 balls. It proved to be a match-winning effort.

Bowlers turn the screw

One of the key features of Yash Dayal’s bowling is the seam presentation. Also, his front knee doesn’t collapse at the point of release, allowing him to generate pace off the surface. One of those deliveries accounted for Quinton de Kock, as the Super Giants opener looked to clobber a drive but the skid forced him to play it uppishly to the square point fielder. Along with Arshdeep Singh and Mohsin, Dayal is one left-arm seamer Indian cricket can look forward to.

He was unlucky not to get Hooda, as an outside edge just eluded the slip fielder, but debutant Karan Sharma was late on the shot and Dayal had his second wicket. Titans rested Lockie Ferguson in this game and the youngster stood up to be counted.

Mohammed Shami yet again dismissed KL Rahul. In the first leg, he got the Super Giants skipper out for a golden duck. On Tuesday, he picked him in his third over, via a short, rising delivery. Titans didn’t have enough runs to play with, but had enough bowling wherewithal to put their opponents under pressure.

Super Giants banked on Krunal. The stage was set for him to outshine his brother in the ‘Pandya derby’. A spanking cover drive off Dayal oozed intent. But Rashid Khan bowled a beauty, enticing Krunal to come out of his crease and Wriddhiman Saha whipped the bails off in a flash. Even better was Saha’s take off a Khan googly down the legside. The leg-spinner returned with 4/24.

Sai Kishore got rid of Ayush Badoni and at 61/5, Super Giants’ hopes rested on a Hooda-Marcus Stoinis partnership. A comical run-out put paid to that hope, as Hooda didn’t respond to Stoinis’ call for a second run. And Rashid bowled a top-spinner to catch Holder plumb in front in that over. The game was done. Super Giants’ batting collapse put Gill’s knock in perspective, how it was the difference between the two sides.

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