It’s been six years since an opener batted through the first innings of an IPL match for a score lower than Shubman Gill’s 63*. Back in 2016, when Shikhar Dhawan hit 56* off 53 for Sunrisers Hyderabad against Rising Pune Super Giant, it was more out of necessity than caution after none of the other five recognised batters had got past double figures.
The situation wasn’t that dire for Gujarat Titans on Tuesday. But the Pune pitch was deceptively two-paced with a rather uncomfortable bounce, necessitating a mix of caution and aggression from Gill. That proved to be the difference as Gujarat Titans were stupendous in their defence of 144/4, dismissing Lucknow Super Giants for 82 with 37 balls to spare, becoming the first team to reach the IPL playoffs.
Only three LSG batters reached double figures, just two top-order batters ended with strike rates of 100 and above, Wriddhiman Saha was involved in five dismissals (including a run out and two stumpings) as LSG imploded into a pile of indecision that culminated in a series of rash shots and horrible judgement overall.
Giving it a more improbable look is the manner in which the match unfolded—from a juncture where Gujarat Titans reached 50 in the ninth over, huffed and puffed in the middle overs and then got to a stage where the innings picked up momentum, before their bowlers kept knocking off one LSG batter after another.
Quinton de Kock was caught at point, KL Rahul was out after top-edging the ball, Krunal Pandya and Ayush Badoni were lured into being stumped—they weren’t even close—and Marcus Stoinis wasn’t sharp enough to return to the safety of his crease. “We should have batted a lot better,” Rahul said after the defeat.
“Some poor shot selections, a run-out didn’t help, good learning for us. Hopefully we can learn from a loss like this. Sometimes you need a little bit of a reminder to keep turning up every game and keep trying to do our best.”
If Gill was their safety net at the top, Gujarat Titans also ticked off another important box by utilising the slog overs well, milking 52 runs in the last five overs to get to 144. It looked a bit of a struggle before that, especially in the first over when Mohsin Khan started with two slips and a pitched-up beauty. Full length, with a hint of shape, it caught Wriddhiman Saha off-guard and sounded an early caution, to which Titans were lethargic to act. Saha was dismissed quickly, as were Matthew Wade and Hardik Pandya. Gill stuck in and led the revival, one over at a time. When he finally reached fifty—fourth of this season, joint best with Jos Buttler—Gill started to hit more boundaries. That gave some momentum to the innings before Rahul Tewatia scored a 16-ball 22 to provide the finishing touches.