Gujarat Titans made a winning start to its title defence, beating Chennai Super Kings by five wickets in the Indian Premier League opener at the Narendra Modi stadium here on Friday.
Set 179 to win, it appeared that the Titans had let the chase drag on for too long. With 34 needed off four overs, Deepak Chahar and debutant Rajvardhan Hangargekar gave away just 11 runs and the latter even dismissed Vijay Shankar, the home side’s last specialist batter.
But Rashid Khan smashed Chahar for a massive six over mid-wicket and edged one over short third-man for four in the penultimate over before Rahul Tewatia finished it off with a six and a four off Tushar Deshpande (IPL’s first-ever Impact Player).
For Titans Shubman Gill played the anchor (63, 36b, 6x4, 3x6). Much of his batting was workmanlike, but it was not without his trademark shots – a short-arm jab for four, a pick-up hit for six and a terrific inside-out maximum off Ravindra Jadeja.
For the second wicket, he put on 53 runs off 34 balls with Sai Sudharsan, the Impact Player substitute for Kane Williamson, who badly injured his right knee while saving a six. When Gill was dismissed, Titans needed 41 off 30 balls and seemed in a slight spot of bother. But its batting depth carried the day.
After being asked to bat first, CSK rode on Ruturaj Gaikwad’s magnificent 92 (50b, 4x4, 9x6). The 26-year-old’s batting stood out for its grace and timing, and was devoid of the frenzied stroke-play that is commonplace in T20s. But for a direct hit Gill missed when he was on 36, it was a chanceless innings.
Gaikwad started with two punched fours off Hardik Pandya in the second over and then welcomed Josh Little – the first cricketer from Ireland to play in the IPL – with a six over fine-leg.
While Rashid was at his stifling best (4-0-26-2), Titans leaked runs from the other end. Gaikwad creamed Hardik for consecutive sixes over long-off and then smashed Alzarri Joseph for three maximums in the arc between fine-leg and deep backward square-leg. He had his half-century from just 23 balls.
However, CSK’s momentum shifted for the worse from 13th over on. From 120 for four after 12.3 overs, M.S. Dhoni’s men couldn’t manage a single hit to the fence for 21 balls, with Joseph (4-0-33-2) bowling outstandingly well to concede just 11 from two overs.
With Gaikwad’s dismissal eight runs short of a century, there were no end-overs flourish, which ultimately cost CSK the match.
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