A brilliant 92 from Ruturaj Gaikwad went in vain as defending champions Gujarat Titans beat Chennai Super Kings in Ahmedabad on Friday (March 31) in the tournament opener. Gaikwad's innings was nullified to an extent initially by Shubman Gill before a few vital blows towards the end of the game from the Titans middle order got the job done for them with four balls to spare.
Overseas trio fail to fire for CSK
The very consistent Devon Conway endured a rare failure as he played a loose shot to get bowled by Mohammed Shami early in the game and Moeen Ali's first seven balls had six dots, as CSK failed to get going in the powerplay. While Moeen finally teed off by taking on Shami, he struggled against Rashid Khan and was eventually dismissed by him just before the end of the powerplay. All eyes were on the big-money signing Ben Stokes, who walked out at No.4 for CSK but Rashid gobbled him up cheaply as well.
Even though he was losing partners at the other end, Gaikwad batted like a dream. For someone who has had a reputation for taking time to get going, Gaikwad put on a show, regularly clearing the ropes to keep CSK in a good position. Hardik Pandya was hit for back-to-back sixes over extra cover and Alzarri Joseph was welcomed to the crease with three hits to the fence on the leg side as CSK raced to 90 in just 9 overs. The carnage continued as the opener continued to deal in sixes, looking good for a hundred at one stage. Having smashed nine sixes, Gaikwad eventually fell eight short of a century.
How then, did CSK end up with only 179?
Even though they had a long batting lineup, CSK's move to send Ambati Rayudu and Shivam Dube in particular ahead of Ravindra Jadeja backfired big time. Rayudu just couldn't get going on the night despite clearing the ropes once and Dube struggled to put pace away on a surface that had a bit of bounce in it. His struggles drastically brought the scoring rate down as CSK made only 43 runs off the next six overs after racing to 90 off 9. Even the long batting lineup couldn't rescue CSK at the death as the likes of Joseph, Rashid and Shami delivered to give away only 45 runs in the final five overs.
How did the impact substitutes fare?
On expected lines, both teams made their changes at the innings break. Tushar Deshpande became the first ever impact substitute in IPL history as he was brought on for Rayudu to strengthen the bowling attack. However, he made a torrid start as Wriddhiman Saha greeted him with a four and a six to kickstart the Titans' charge. It was then Gill's turn to take on Deshpande in his next over as the bowler ended up conceding 29 off his first two. Deshpande continued to leak runs throughout the game and ended up conceding 51 off just 20 deliveries.
At the other end, an unfortunate injury to Kane Williamson near the boundary during CSK's innings forced Titans to strengthen their top order as they brought on Sai Sudharsan to replace the Kiwi. The youngster walked out after Saha's cameo in the powerplay and timed his first ball to perfection for a boundary. He looked very impressive in his short stay, rotating the strike alongside Gill before edging a wide delivery off Rajvardhan Hangargekar to fall for 22.
Shubman oozing class
One of the most in-form batters coming into the tournament, Gill looked at ease right from the beginning. By the end of the powerplay, Gill had 25 to his name and then targeted extra cover to good effect against the two left-arm spinners - Jadeja and Mitchell Santner. He got to his fifty as a result, off just 30 balls, to put Titans in a very good position. He continued to bat deep after Hardik Pandya's early dismissal and then smashed Deshpande again for another six to bring the equation down to 41 off 31. Unfortunately in an attempt to repeat the shot, Gill mistimed one that helped Deshpande redeem himself to an extent as the opener fell for 63.
While Titans may have won with four balls to spare, it wasn't exactly a walk in the park for them towards the end. Given Vijay Shankar made only 13 off his first 12 deliveries after Hardik's 11-ball 8, Titans did lose a bit of momentum in the second half of the chase. And with Gill back in the hut, they needed someone to step up especially in the absence of David Miller.
A tight over from Deepak Chahar was followed by another impressive over from Hangargekar, who came back strong after conceding a six to Vijay by dismissing him next ball. However, Rashid came out and smashed a six first ball to revive Titans again and followed it up with a streaky boundary to bring the equation down to 8 from the final over. Deshpande's night got worse as Rahul Tewatia hammered a six and a four off the first two balls to put him out of his misery and seal the game for the Titans.
Brief scores: Chennai Super Kings 178/7 in 20 overs (Ruturaj Gaikwad 92; Rashid Khan 2/26, Mohammed Shami 2/29) Gujarat Titans182/5 in 19.2 overs (Shubman Gill 63; Rajvardhan Hangargekar 3/36) by 5 wickets