In a low-scoring thriller at the Ekana Stadium, defending champions Gujarat Titans once again displayed their bowling prowess to miraculously carve out a win against Lucknow SuperGiants by 7 runs.
Opting to bat first on a sluggish black-soil pitch, the Titans adopted a cautious approach to maximize their batting line-up. SuperGiants captain KL Rahul, though, introduced Krunal Pandya in the 2nd over itself as a match-up to counter the right-heavy lineup of Titans. The move worked as Shubman Gill fell trying to loft the spinner down the ground but could only toe-end it to long-off. Hardik Pandya walked in ahead to bat at number three. Saha kept counter-attacking, picking up fours on anything loose and targeting the gaps as Gujarat steadily accumulated 40 runs in the powerplay.
It was a battle of attrition where the batters had to adopt certain red-ball tactics in the middle overs. As the spinners continued to bowl tight on a pitch tailored-made for turn, Saha and Hardik kept rotating the strike, and denied the Lucknow bowlers any chance of breaking through. But a lapse of concentration from Saha, on a loopy ball outside off from Krunal, caused his downfall, as Krunal finished with 4-0-16-2. Abhinav Manohar fell in a similar manner. Naveen got his first IPL wicket when Vijay Shankar missed a fuller one at the stumps.
Two more quiet overs followed as it was difficult for the new batters to connect and find the fence. With the score reading at 102/4 after the 17th over, Hardik decided to kick on. He hit Bishnoi for a four, followed it up with two maximums to bring up his half-century as well. Naveen came back to bowl a tidy over giving away just three runs in the 19th over. Hardik started with a six off Stoinis, before hitting straight to KL Rahul down at long-on. Ultimately, GT finished with 135/6, which was definitely not par even on a slow track.
Gujarat’s defense started on the right note, with Mohammed Shami keeping very tight lines on hard lengths to open with a maiden over against KL Rahul. Post that, both Rahul and Kyle Mayers owned the powerplay as boundaries came at a fast rate. Even the spinners couldn’t stem the run flow as LSG wiped off 53 from the target within six overs.
Things looked bleak for the Titans, but after an animated group chat from the skipper, Rashid Khan broke through Mayers’ defenses. Krunal Pandya got promoted to number three but the southpaw struggled to find his rhythm. Rahul though kept scoring steadily from one end even as the spinners kept a leash on the scoring rate.
With 31 needed off the last six and nine wickets in hand, it was Lucknow’s match to lose. But Noor Ahmad, left-arm chinaman on debut, came to have Krunal stumped, and gave away just a solitary run from the 15th. Jayant Yadav conceded just three runs to finish his spell at 4-0-26-0. Noor Ahmad returned and got Nicholas Pooran. Mohit Sharma bowled a tight over for just six runs.
The pressure was suddenly back on Lucknow as the ball was getting older and gripping more on the tiring track with no signs of dew. Shami nailed his yorkers to squeeze the LSG batters, with KL Rahul clearly unable to middle the ball. Defending 12 in the last over, Mohit threw a short ball which Rahul miscued to get caught at deep square leg. Stoinis had no choice but to throw everything at it, and he too perished, connecting well but straight to Miller at long-on. Needing 10 off 3, Hooda drilled a low full toss down to long-off, where Shankar threw the ball at bowler’s end to catch Badoni short of his crease. Next ball, a yorker which Hooda hit to mid-wicket and ran for two, but couldn’t make it in with Rashid Khan electric in the field. Mohit bowled a dot ball to help GT eke out a come-from-behind win to clinch yet another thriller.