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Rashid Khan of Gujarat Titans got the two prized scalps of Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes in the IPL opener against Chennai Super Kings. Image Credit: SPORTZPICS/IPL

Dubai: Twenty20 is no longer all about hitting. The shortest format is evolving into a more traditional form, playing with a straight bat and asilken touch. Rival openers Ruturaj Gaekwad and Shubman Gill, who both are known for their timing rather than power-hitting, proved that it is easy to score runs without bludgeoning the ball in the Indian Premier League Season 16 opener at Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on Friday.

Gill’s 63 ensured that the defending champions, who were on the mat at the halfway stage of the Chennai innings, began their campaign on a positive note, while Gaekwad’s stunning knock of 92 went in vain as the Super Kings could not maintain their momentum towards the end of their innings and finish 178 for seven, the projected score going past the 200-run mark at one stage.

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Shubman Gill's calculated assault set the platform for Gujarat Titans' chase against the Super Kings. Image Credit: SPORTZPICS/IPL

Underwhelming finish

“We were slightly short of the target,” skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni told the official broadcasters after the match. Slight is an huge understatement as the Super Kings were 121 for 4 in 12.5 overs, which means the four-time champions could on score 57 in 43 balls. Not the right finish to an innings that went on the overdrive at the start. “Also we could have batted properly in the middle overs, as opposed to trying to muscle the ball,” Dhoni added.

More from the T20 showpiece

Gaekwad did exactly the same, showing his talent and a full array of strokes to toy with the bowling, despite losing the two great England all-rounders, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali, to the wily Rashid Khan, who couldn’t even stop Gaekwad despite coming in during the powerplay overs.

When the Super Kings later order batters failed to take a cue from Gaekwad on a hard wicket that made batting look easy when the ball is new, while posing a slight difficulty when it is old.

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Ruturaj Gaekwad plays a cover drive during his 92 against Gujarat Titans. The opener's knock consisted of four fours and nine sixes. Image Credit: SPORTZPICS/IPL

Gill, who has been in brilliant form for India since the beginning of the year, scoring a double century in One Day Internationals and a Twenty20 ton, followed in Gaekwad’s footsteps to keep the hosts well on target during their chase with orthodox game that will please the purists.

Difficult position

Titans too were in a spot of bother after the exit of Gill, but Vijay Shankar, who has arrived on the back of some big domestic performances, also chipped in with a crucial knock, while Rashid Khan’s cameo ensured the Titans sneak home in another close contest with the Super Kings, taking their head-to-head record to 3-0.

Gujarat’s skipper Hardik Pandya, for whom excepting winning the toss, nothing went right, said: “I am obviously very happy, but we did put ourselves in a difficult position. We were very happy with 178 because at one point they looked like going past 200. But we kept getting wickets. My shot and Shubman’s shot put the team in a difficult position.”

Two pacers, a veteran and rookie also shone on a wicket that didn’t give enough assistance to the bowlers. Mohammad Shami excelled for Gujarat with a two wickets to reach the landmark of 100 wickets in IPL, while 20-year-old Rajvardhan Hangargekar, who was part of the Indian team that won the Under-19 World Cup in West Indies last year, dazzled with three wickets in his first match for the Chennai team.

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Chennai rookie pacer Rajvardhan Hangargekar celebrates the wicket of Sai Sudharshan with skipper Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja and Mitchell Santner. and Image Credit: SPORTZPICS/IPL

Deshpande creates history

Chennai pacer Tushar Deshpande created history by becoming the first impact player in IPL while Gujarat’s Sai Sudarshan followed suit when he replaced former New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson, who hurt his knee while attempting a catch during Chennai innings.

But one player who’s value seems to be ever increasing is the Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan, the world’s No 1 Twenty20 bowler. He is the livewire for Gujarat and could prove a difficult customer when the weary pitches will assist him more as the league moves on.

“So happy to get the Man of the Match. It gives me so much of energy for the rest of the competition. I had it in my mind to keep it simple and just bowl at the right areas consistently,” he said after receiving the player of the match award. It’s just the start for the magician.