Gujarat win
Gujarat Titans' players celebrate after winning the match against Lucknow Super Giants on Saturday. Image Credit: AFP

Lucknow: At one point, it seemed like chasing 136 would turn out to be a walk in the park for Lucknow Super Giants. A wicketless power-play, captain KL Rahul scoring a fifty, Gujarat Titans dropping two catches and needing 31 runs off 36 balls with nine wickets in hand, everything was literally going their way for a victory at home.

But Gujarat’s bowlers, led by Mohit Sharma, Noor Ahmad, who picked two wickets each along with experienced Shami, produced top-notch bowling on a slow pitch with relentless accuracy to defend 135 and help the reigning champions pull off a miraculous seven-run victory in the Indian Premier League at the Bharat Ratna Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ekana Cricket Stadium on Saturday.

Lowering the gears

Such was the choke effect from Gujarat’s bowlers that Lucknow were unable to hit a boundary in the last 45 balls of their chase. Questions will be asked of Rahul, who looked good in reaching his fifty in 38 balls, but managed to get his next 18 runs off 23 balls as Lucknow were restricted to 128 for seven in 20 overs, as Gujarat left them stunned to record their first win of IPL 2023 while defending a total.

Rahul reached his fifty in 38 balls with a single through long-on off Rahul Tewatia, followed by Krunal hoicking the spinner cleanly over long-on for six. Rahul got a life on 55 when Vijay Shankar couldn’t hold on to his catch at long-on.

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Lucknow skipper KL Rahul's half-century went in vain as the hosts lost from a position of strength in the final overs. Image Credit: AFP

Gujarat finally had a wicket when Krunal Pandya was easily stumped off Noor in the 15th over. After a slew of dot balls, Noor had another wicket in the 17th over when Nicholas Pooran top-edged a slog-sweep to Hardik Pandya.

Mohit mixed yorkers and slower balls very well to concede just six runs in the 18th over, as pressure increased on Lucknow. Shami produced an excellent boundary-less 19th over, conceding just five runs as Rahul struggled to put bat on ball.

Stunning catch

With 12 runs needed off the final over, Rahul’s struggle ended at 68 as he miscued a pull off a slower ball from Mohit to deep square leg. On the very next ball, the pacer had Marcus Stoinis holing out straight to long-on taking a stunning catch.

It was followed by run-outs of Ayush Badoni and Deepak Hooda as Mohit gave away just four runs in the final over, with as many wickets falling on the trot, giving Gujarat a spectacular victory.

Earlier, Krunal Pandya bowled an economical spell of two for 16 while Stoinis took two wickets in the final over to restrict Gujarat Titans to a modest 135 for six. Gujarat batters found it difficult to find their timing, barring captain Hardik Pandya’s 66 off 50 balls and Wriddhiman Saha hitting 47 off 37 balls. Such was the difficulty in stroke play that Hardik was the only batter from Gujarat to hit all of their sixes in their innings.

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Hardik Pandya single-handely led Gujarat to a competitive total, hitting all of the innings sixes on a slow pitch. Image Credit: Source: IPL Twitter

Electing to bat first, Gujarat suffered a huge blow in the second over when Shubman Gill fell for a two-ball duck after holing out to long-off against Krunal Pandya. Saha took three quick fours off Krunal, Naveen and Avesh Khan, before cutting on consecutive deliveries off Ravi Bishnoi for boundaries in the last over of power-play.

Crucial partnership

The 68-run partnership between Saha and Hardik came to an end in the 11th over when the former danced down the pitch to chip aerially off Krunal, but gave a simple catch to long-on. Hardik ended 4.2 overs of boundary drought by pulling Bishnoi for four through square leg, followed by powerful sixes over deep mid-wicket and long-on, first of which fetched him his fifty in 44 balls in a 19-run over.

Skipper Hardik began the final over by pulling Stoinis for a flat six over deep mid-wicket. On the very next ball, Stoinis had the last laugh as Hardik pulled a slower ball straight to long-on. The Australian all-rounder ended the innings with a wicket as David Miller holed out to long-on.

Brief scores:

Gujarat Titans beat Lucknow Super Giants by seven runs. Gujarat Titans 135/6 in 20 overs (Hardik Pandya 66, Wriddhiman Saha 47; Krunal Pandya 2/16, Marcus Stoinis 2/20) Lucknow Super Giants 128/7 in 20 overs (KL Rahul 68, Kyle Mayers 24; Mohit Sharma 2/17, Noor Ahmad 2/18).