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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

IPL 2022: League toppers take first train to final

Impressive Gujarat one win from title on debut after getting better of Royals in high-scoring qualifier.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Kolkata |
Updated: May 25, 2022 7:34:04 am
Gujarat Titans punch their ticket to the final after defeating Rajasthan Royals, (Photo by Saikat Das / Sportzpics for IPL)

The game hung on a knife-edge until the last over. Gujarat Titans needed 16 runs off the final six balls to win Qualifier 1 and reach the final. Prasidh Krishna’s brief was to bowl full to David Miller. The field was set that way. The Rajasthan Royals fast bowler started off with a delivery in the slot and conceded a six. The next ball was a touch short and went for another maximum. Royals skipper Sanju Samson wasn’t happy, but the damage was done. Another six from Miller took Titans to a seven-wicket victory with three balls to spare. Royals will get another bite at the cherry in Qualifier 2 on Friday.

Collective effort

Shubman Gill’s run-out came without warning. The way he and Matthew Wade were batting after losing Wriddhiman Saha in the first over of the 189-run chase, it felt like Titans would romp home to the target. Gill’s run-out, due to a horrible mix-up, cut short a fine innings. The opener still contributed handsomely to the cause. His cultured decimation of Ravichandran Ashwin, through a six and two fours in the off-spinner’s first over, was a joy to watch. Ashwin never recovered from that and gave away 40 runs in his four overs.

Miller’s 68 not out off 38 balls proved to be the x-factor in Titans’ innings. But it had been a collective batting effort. A 71-run partnership (43 balls) between Gill and Wade set the platform for a back-end charge. It also ensured that Titans were ahead in the Powerplay 64/1 vis-à-vis Royals’ 55/1. Hardik Pandya played a captain’s knock, scoring 40 not out off 27 balls and anchoring the innings. The collective effort gave Miller the licence to thrill. The two added 106 runs off 61 balls in an unbroken fourth-wicket partnership. Even when the asking rate jumped, they kept things under control and trumped a Samson-Buttler show.

Samson-Buttler show

Samson probably wanted to prove a point. Only last weekend, the national selection committee brought back a 36-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman, Dinesh Karthik, to the Indian team at his expense. The Eden Gardens was Samson’s stage to make a statement, in front of 60,000 spectators. He would rue the fact that his first and only false stroke brought about his dismissal but his delightful batting was the highlight of the Royals’ innings.

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The first shot he played, a six over long-on against Yash Dayal, oozed lazy elegance. That was the beginning of a sublime knock, embellished with five fours and three sixes. An over-boundary against Alzarri Joseph stood out. The ball climbed fast and vertically off a length, giving Samson very little time to get into the right position. The batsman pulled it off the front foot over the deep mid-wicket boundary. Bat-speed did the trick.

Left-arm spinner Sai Kishore posted three fielders inside the ring on the offside, plus a sweeper cover. Any gap looked non-existent. Samson still managed to find one behind point for a four. His innings was also resplendent in its unselfishness. Royals had a clear plan, Jos Buttler batting deep, without being perturbed about his scoring rate initially. After three consecutive single-digit scores, the team’s talisman needed time to bed in. A few gorgeous cover drives on the up against Mohammed Shami notwithstanding, Buttler didn’t look to be in top fettle. Samson took it upon himself to ensure that the opener batted at his own pace. The Royals skipper led from the front, providing further proof of an excellent team culture, which Ashwin had spoken about in his interview with the in-house media ahead of the game.

Samson’s dismissal felt like an anti-climax and credit to Sai Kishore for making the ball dip, which made the batsman drag it to long-on instead of playing it on the off side. A mistimed hoick took the ball to Joseph and the fans reacted to it with a collective hush. They were expecting a sparkling half-century. Still, Samson’s 26-ball 47 and his 68-run partnership with Buttler – the latter’s contribution was 15 – put his team into ascendency.

It also set Buttler up nicely to cut loose at the death. Until the 16th over, he was going run-a-ball before attacking Dayal with four fours to reach his half-century. A well-set Buttler, regaining his hitting mojo, proved to be a dangerous proposition for Titans. Joseph and Shami found it the hard way. Buttler rode his luck. He was beaten on a few occasions, two catches were dropped – on 43 and 69 – and a couple of edges flew over short third man to the boundary. In the end, however, Buttler had 89 off 56 balls against his name, his fourth half-century in the tournament that took his tally to a staggering 718 runs from 15 matches.

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For Titans, Rashid Khan was superb, teasing Buttler with sharp turn and keeping even Samson quiet. As far as bowling was concerned, his 15 runs from four overs on this pitch was the difference.

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