Gujarat ride on Gill fifty to start title defence in style
Gill was the only constant throughout this turbulence, effortlessly grafting a fifty that blunted the asking rate. Oozing class, be it in the short-arm smash across midwicket or skipping down the pitch to hoick Jadeja over long-off, Gill didn’t look perturbed by CSK’s bowling till he couldn’t connect a dragged slap from wide outside off.
Ruturaj Gaikwad fell eight runs short of a superlative IPL hundred in a tapering Chennai Super Kings innings before Gujarat Titans rode an authoritative fifty from Shubman Gill and some lusty hits from Rashid Khan and Rahul Tewatia to register a five-wicket win in the 2023 IPL opener in Ahmedabad on Friday. Using their fast bowlers to effectively check CSK's scoring rate in the middle overs, the Titans chased 178 down with four balls to spare.
Chennai Super Kings have themselves to blame for this defeat. Having scored 114/3 in 12 overs at a run rate of 9.5 on a belter of a pitch in the middle of a quick outfield, they should have ideally got to around 200, especially when Gujarat Titans still had some pace left in their tank towards the end.
More importantly, Ravindra Jadeja and MS Dhoni were yet to come. But Chennai Super Kings finished at least 20 short, giving Moeen Ali every reason to feel a "little bit disappointed" after the kind of start he had provided with Gaikwad.
For a change, Gaikwad wasn't waiting around to play his shots. He had never hit more than three sixes in his first 36 balls in the IPL. On Friday however, he had scored eight within the first 36 balls, clearing short fine-leg, extra cover, mid-off, long-on, long-off, long-leg and the square-leg boundary thrice. Of the 13 sixes hit in the CSK innings, nine had come off Gaikwad's bat. And that was reflected in the first half of the innings as well.
Between the seventh and the 10th over, CSK were truly unstoppable, scoring 42 runs at over 10 per over. But 40 runs from the next five overs were flagging signs of slowdown despite the Titans reverting to the pace of Alzarri Joseph, Josh Little and Yash Dyaal after Rashid Khan had done the bulk of his job. That he still managed to return 2/26 despite conceding 11 in his last over is a testament to the Afghan spinner's consistency in this format.
Ambati Rayudu managed a strike rate of just 100 but Shivam Dube was more responsible for CSK losing steam as he desperately tried to swat every short ball Titans deliberately bowled at him. It also underlined CSK's struggle against the short ball, scoring just 39 off 37 compared to Gaikwad's 43 off 21. The more Dube hung around, the more Titans gained confidence as CSK started losing wickets at the other end. Gaikwad was caught off a dipping full toss, and three balls later, Ravindra Jadeja holed out to midwicket. Dube finally cleared the boundary in the 19th over but once again the responsibility fell on Dhon, and he delivered a 13-run last over comprising a six and a four.
"If we can keep them under 200, I think it's gettable," Gary Kirsten was saying during the CSK innings. Gill and Wriddhiman Saha showed why. Saha put in motion the innings, shellacking Tushar Deshpande–impact player for Ambati Rayudu–for a six and a four in the second over. Another Saha six in the next over and Titans were scoring at over nine runs till the 12th over. Two things happened immediately after that–Hardik Pandya got out first ball of the 13th over, triggering a seven-ball phase whereTitans could add only four runs.
Gill was the only constant throughout this turbulence, effortlessly grafting a fifty that blunted the asking rate. Oozing class, be it in the short-arm smash across midwicket or skipping down the pitch to hoick Jadeja over long-off, Gill didn't look perturbed by CSK's bowling till he couldn't connect a dragged slap from wide outside off. Even at that point, 34 from 24 didn't look tough, considering Tewatia and Vijay Shankar were still batting. But a four-run over from Deepak Chahar and Shankar's dismissal tightened the equation to 23 from 12 before Khan hit a six and a four to release the tension. Tewatia then finished the chase with two hits.