Ahmedabad: Nobody gave them a chance, but Gujarat TitansContrary to all pre-tournament predictions, he surprised everyone by lifting the Indian Premier League title in a girls’ dream season after a seven-wicket win over Rajasthan Royals in the final here on Sunday.
Gujarat’s highly rated bowling attack, led by skipper Hardik Pandya (3/17) himself, reduced a formidable Rajasthan Royals batting unit to 130 for nine after losing the toss.
Shubman Gill and David Miller went undefeated at 45 and 32 respectively to take a clear win for their team.
It should have been a comfortable chase, but Rajasthan tried his best to make it an interesting final. As they showed throughout the season, Gujarat kept calm in difficult situations to complete the chase in 18.1 overs.
Not many gave Gujarat a chance in their first season, especially after a mixed auction where they waited until the end to secure the services of wicketkeepers Wriddhiman Saha and Matthew Wade.
It wasn’t a team littered with star players, but Hardik impressed with his leadership and brought out the best in his peers.
His bat and ball performance also contributed greatly to the team’s triumph, in addition to the ability to bounce back from any situation due to the brilliance of Miller and Rahul Tewatia.
After putting down a disappointing total, Rajasthan had to make a special effort with the ball to get back into play.
The tempo duo of Trent Boult and Prasidh Krishna were brilliant in the power play, bringing Gujarat down to 31 for two with Wriddhiman Saha (5) and Matthew Wade (8) back in the dugout.
Krishna had one of good length sewn in to break Saha’s defenses and crash into the stumps.
Boult, who also knocked over a girl in his neat spell, removed Wade. Gujarat would be three deficit in the power play as Yuzvendra Chahal held onto a simple catch by Gill on Boult in the first left of the innings.
Hardik and Gill struggled to get to the limits but never felt extreme pressure as the demand rate remained very well controlled.
R Ashwin was introduced in the 12th over and Hardik (34 out of 30) decided to go after him, collecting four and six on consecutive balls to make it 50 run with Gill and take Gujarat to 77 for two in 12 overs .
The skipper fell with a brilliant leg break from Chahal, but Gill and Miller eventually got the job done. The entire stadium, with more than a lakh of people, erupted as Gill hit the winning six.
Previously, Hardik (3/17) struck three times in his four overs, while Rashid Khan (1/18) once again performed on the big stage to put their team on course for a debut season title.
Rajasthan didn’t have the best start after skipper Sanju Samson decided to put points on the board in a grand final.
Gujarat bowlers were able to maintain the pressure on the opposition although Jos Buttler (39 of 35) and Yashasvi Jaiswal (22 of 16) tried their best to break free.
Jaiswal, who seemed hesitant to Mohammad Shami’s pace and swing, took more chances than Buttler at the start of the innings.
Among the shots Jaiswal attempted, his most comforting hit was a beautifully timed six over cover from Shami. After pulling Yash Dayal for a massive six over long legs, the left leg tried one too many and was caught in the deep end. The extra bounce caused the mishit.
Buttler, who started his innings with a sharp square cut, was joined in the middle by Samson (14 of 11).
Knowing well that both right-handers of Rajasthan are battling Rashid Khan, Hardik brought the star spinner on the attack in the power play itself.
Both Buttler and Samson chose to play it safe against Rashid as Rajasthan reached 44 for one in the power play.
The in-form Buttler decided to force the issue when he drove Lockie Ferguson across the cover fielder before slashing him for successive boundaries.
The New Zealander generated a serious pace and clocked 157.3 km per hour, the fastest ball of the tournament.
Samson didn’t last long when his opponent Hardik removed him from the game on his second ball. Hardik hit the hard length and Samson went for the pull shot but was caught on the outside, leaving Rajasthan at 60 for two in 8.2 overs.
Rajasthan’s struggle worsened when Devdutt Padikkal (2), who took eight balls to get off the goal, and Buttler left in a space of three balls.
With Rajasthan going for a run after 14 overs, big hits were the necessity of the hour.
However, Hardik made 94 for five by catching and bowling the dangerous Shimron Hetmyer.
Ashwin perished in the next over, ending all hopes of a Rajasthan fight back.
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