He should have been dismissed for a golden duck. Instead, Shubman Gill emerged as the Gujarat Titans’ saviour in its quest of returning to winning ways in the Indian Premier League.
Rashid Khan, the other high-profile pre-auction signing, then teamed up with debutant R. Sai Kishore as Titans bamboozled Lucknow Super Giants and formally became the first of the four teams in the IPL playoffs with a thumping win at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium on Tuesday.
On a surface that aided bounce, Gill carried his bat through after being dropped by debutant Karan Sharma in Mohsin Khan’s fiery first over. Once Mohammed Shami had KL Rahul’s number for the second time this season and left-arm pacer Yash Dayal struck twice in the PowerPlay, the spinners took over to bundle Super Giants out in the 14th over for 82, the second-lowest total of the season.
The victory also justified captain Hardik Pandya’s decision to bat first as it was the sixth consecutive occasion of a team being unable to overhaul a target at this venue.
While Titans bounced back in style after losing their previous two games, the loss halted Super Giants’ four-match winning streak in the most unexpected manner. When Rashid was brought into the attack, Lucknow was tottering at 44 for three in seven overs, chasing 145.
The Afghan was all over the Super Giants batters. Krunal Pandya had no clue against his googly, Jason Holder found a quick leggie too good to negotiate, Deepak Hooda - guilty of running out Marcus Stoinis - top-edged an attempted sweep to Shami and Avesh Khan - after tonking two sixes to save a hat-trick - inside-edged to Wriddhiman Saha.
In between, Sai Kishore ended his prolonged wait for an IPL debut with a wicket in each of his two overs.
Had it not been for Gill’s splendid show, Titans may not have cantered to a facile win. Despite recalling Matthew Wade in a bid to strengthen their top-order, Titans found themselves struggling at 51 for three in the 10th over. Besides Wade, whose cheeky scoop resulted in him being caught behind off Avesh, in-form Saha and captain Hardik also fell cheaply to an accurate Super Giants pace pack.
Fortunately for Titans, David Miller carried on his sublime touch. He adapted from being the finisher to reconstruct a stuttering innings along with Gill. The pair added 52 in 41 balls to set up a fitting finale for Gill and Rahul Tewatia.
While Tewatia did his bit by thumping three fours off Holder in the last over that went for 16 runs, Gill continued to find gaps at will. Those gaps eventually turned out to be the difference on the night.