Wriddhiman Saha and Shubman Gill made batting look easy on a Narendra Modi Stadium surface that appeared dry, with the odd ball stopping. Braving the sweltering conditions on Sunday afternoon, the openers forged a 142-run stand to guide Gujarat Titans to 227 for two - the fourth highest total this season - and eventually paved the way for the team’s 56-run win against Lucknow Super Giants in an IPL 2023 fixture.
The Lucknow outfit, which won the toss and put Titans in, had no respite despite deploying eight bowlers as boundaries flowed in the PowerPlay and Saha (81, 43b, 10x4, 4x6) reached his half-century in just 20 deliveries.
The seasoned campaigner, who’s been out of India reckoning, rode on his experience and hammered Mohsin Khan for a couple of fours and followed it up with a six and a four off Avesh Khan in the first two overs. He continued with his assault in Mohsin’s next over and eventually brought up his first fifty of the season with a six off Yash Thakur.
As Titans scored at 13 runs per over and bettered their overall record of most runs in the PowerPlay, with 78 in six overs, Gill (94 n.o., 51b, 2x4, 7x6) looked subdued initially. But as the game progressed, the youngster upped the rate and made life difficult for the LSG bowlers.
Dealing in fours and sixes, Saha looked set for a century, but a sharp catch by substitute Prerak Mankad at deep mid-wicket off Avesh dashed his hopes. However, Gill stood firm and forged two partnerships - 42 runs with Titans captain Hardik Pandya, followed by a third-wicket 43 with David Miller - to ensure there was no slip-up. Towards the end, Gill mistimed a few shots and missed out on a hundred.
Chasing a tall total, LSG got off to a steady start with Quinton de Kock (70, 41b, 7x4, 3x6) and Kyle Mayers (48, 32b, 7x4, 2x6) adding 88 runs for the opening stand.
From being 72 for no loss in the PowerPlay, LSG lost the plot as Mohit Sharma (four for 29) earned a breakthrough, dismissing Mayers.
Surviving early on, the West Indies batter was caught by Rashid Khan and that turned out to be a turning point in the match as LSG’s run-flow dried up from there on. Though de Kock, playing his first game, tried to turn things around before falling to Rashid, LSG’s middle-order was once again exposed as neither Deepak Hooda nor Marcus Stoinis could get going.
Surprisingly, captain Krunal Pandya did not elevate himself up the order and backed Impact sub Ayush Badoni and Nicholas Pooran, but none could have an impact as the seasoned Mohit tightened the noose with quick wickets.
Hardik won the battle of Pandya brothers as his team inched closer to the playoffs with 16 points from 11 outings.
‘Gave too many in the PowerPlay’
Lucknow deployed eight bowlers into the attack, but nothing went in its favour against the Titans.
While two crucial points brought Titans closer to the playoffs, LSG slipped in the points table with 11 in its kitty from as many games. With three matches remaining, LSG fast bowler Avesh Khan believes that the team needs to learn from its mistakes and put its best foot forward.
“We had a poor outing in both departments. Initially, we gave away a lot of runs in the powerplay and later on, while batting, we started off well but could not finish the game. We have made small mistakes on both fronts and we need to rectify those,” Avesh said on Sunday.
Though Avesh conceded just 38 runs in four overs and claimed the wicket of Saha, his colleagues failed to tighten the noose. “We need to learn from our mistakes. You can only win games when you fare well in both the departments. In bowling, we need to start well in the powerplay and restrict the teams at lower scores,” he said.
The team left out Afghanistan fast bowler Naveen-ul Haq to accommodate de Kock in the playing eleven, and Avesh admitted that with regular captain KL Rahul ruled out of the tournament, the team’s momentum has taken a hit. “When you win, your mistakes often go unnoticed, but when you lose, everyone seems to look at the mistakes. Going forward, we need to improve,” Avesh said.
The team management will hope to get the house in order when LSG returns to action against Sunrisers Hyderabad next week, after a six-day break.
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