David Miller hit three effortless sixes that looked like iterations of action as Gujarat Titans, led by their inspirational skipper Hardik Pandya, made a mockery of any chance of reaching the IPL-15 final with a seven-wicket victory over Rajasthan Royals at Tuesday. On a two-speed course, the Royals ran Jos Buttler’s 56-ball-89 to make 188 for six in 20 overs, which looked like a winning total given the pressure of the opportunity. But Pandya (40 none from 27 balls) and Miller (68 from 38 balls) added 101 runs in exactly 10 overs to close the deal with three balls left.
For a team many of whom were tipped to finish last due to some out-of-the-box picks, it proved to be the most consistent and now plays the final in front of its home crowd at the Narendra Modi Stadium, with over 100,000 people who encourage them.
No credit is enough for the new ‘Captain Cool’ Pandya, who was always in control, even when things didn’t seem to be going well for his team.
One of the cleanest hitters, Pandya took the game deep with some well-placed boundaries that allowed Miller to take his time before unleashing five huge sixes – three of the last left from Prasidh Krishna, when the bowler lost his nerve completely.
The best part about Pandya’s captaincy was that he didn’t take any chances against Yuzvendra Chahal, the opponent’s best bowler (0/32 in 4 overs), leaving it to his partner, who hit two huge sixes to relieve the pressure.
When Trent Boult (1/38 in 4 overs) and Chahal finished, it was left to the worst performer of the day, Obed McCoy (1/40 in 4 overs), to throw a close 19th over with Titans who 23 of 12 balls.
McCoy used his slower balls on the back of the hand to perfection as only seven of the over came, giving Krishna 16 runs to defend but Miller needed three balls to nail it, all lengthwise- slots.
At the start of the chase, Wriddhiman Saha (0) was all the way out to sea against Boult and shoved one in and then straightened up after throwing. Matthew Wade (35 from 30 balls) and Shubman Gill (35 from 21 balls) didn’t let it affect their punching power as they added 72 for the second wicket to keep the chase on course.
Gill started slowly but then launched Ravichandran Ashwin with a long range six followed by two borders on either side of the square.
Wade also went on briskly before major confusion ended in Gill’s run.
Skipper Pandya started off with a square cut from McCoy before the bowler got Wade in the same over when Buttler took a well-judged catch near the deep center of the wicket.
Previously, Buttler was very lucky and showed quite a bit of pick during an innings of 89, bringing Rajasthan Royals to a challenging total after being put into bat.
The Orange Cap holder Buttler, who had failed to get his act together in the second half of the season, got off to a slow start but made a knockout during his knockout, which was riddled with 12 fours and two sixes.
Buttler, who now has 718 runs in 15 games, scored 39 of his first 38 balls and then crushed another 50 of his next 18 deliveries.
Buttler was also lucky enough to get two reprs – first at 43 – when Hardik Pandya slipped to miss a nanny, then Rashid Khan gave him grass at 69.
He then took on Alzarri Joseph, breaking three boundaries in an over to speed up his score before running out in the last over.
First, it was Sanju Samson’s swagger on full display as the Royals skipper, seemingly hurt by the Indian roster’s latest repulsion, responded in style with a 26-ball 47 (5×4, 3×6).
At a time when Buttler was struggling to get going, the wicketkeeper batter broke the boundaries in his entertaining power play display.
Samson split 68-run tie with Buttler, 47 of which came from the knife of the former, summing up the domination of the Royals skipper after they were put in.
He looked foreboding from the first ball itself, when he lifted Dayal for an effortless six.
Titans’ tempo duo, Mohammed Shami and Alzarri Joseph, struggled with their lines and lengths, while Sanju took full advantage of them to bring the score to 55/1 in six overs.
Just as they were about to spiral out of control, none other than the wily Afghan spinner stepped on the brakes and came into the bowl after the power play.
With the ball stuck on the dry surface, Rashid cleverly used his variations against his ‘bunny’ Buttler as the Englishman struggled to turn the shot.
He allowed only two runs from the second over which seemingly put pressure on Sanju to face Sai Kishore in the next over when he was killed in a flying delivery.