Titans win battle of IPL debutants

Rahul Tewatia’s unbeaten 40 off 24 balls led Gujarat Titans to a five-wicket win with two balls to spare after Mohammed Shami’s three-wicket burst had restricted Lucknow Super Giants to 158.

Shami on fire

Mohammed Shami on song in Test cricket is a delight to watch of course, but you can’t take your eyes off him in the shorter formats as well when he is in the mood. Two nights ago at the same ground, Umesh Yadav had choked Chennai Super Kings in the Powerplay with pace, swing and accuracy. This match was played two pitches away from Saturday’s IPL opener, on a surface that was not even close to the first one in terms of zip and bounce. Moreover, Umesh had got his wickets when batsmen had attempted aggressive strokes. Instead, Shami went through the defences of three international batsmen in three successive overs.

KL Rahul might as well have been opening the Indian batting on a cold first morning of a Test match at Old Trafford against James Anderson, given the delivery he got first ball. Good length, around off, just holding its line, and taking the edge through to the ’keeper. Batsmen unsure about what to do on a fresh pitch where the new ball is skidding and seaming is a recipe for disaster against Shami, regardless of the format. Quinton de Kock got one from wide of the crease that didn’t even move, but the angle was enough to burst through the massive gap between his indecisive bat and pad.

Manish Pandey actually got one that nipped in from just short of a length and bowled him through the gate. When a fast-disappearing dry Powerplay is on batsmen’s mind, it is perhaps too much to expect them to hold bat and pad tightly together to keep out someone of Shami’s class. His figures read 3-0-10-3 at that moment, and LSG were 29 for 4. A return that would have been right in place on a cold first morning of a Manchester Test.

The Hooda and Badoni revival

Even after the damage Shami caused, the challenge confronting LSG was apparent when the express Lockie Ferguson came on as first change. And even without the usual Wankhede bounce on this surface, Ferguson was putting in enough effort to make the short ball climb onto the batsmen’s chest.

There is some space for hunkering down and weathering the storm even in T20, which is what Deepak Hooda and IPL debutant Ayush Badoni did. And when the dew came on, they smartly targeted the weaker links in Hardik Pandya and Varun Aaron. Badoni slogged, lapped and steered Hardik for three successive boundaries. He slogged the fiery Ferguson for six to get to his half-century.

Hooda hasn’t always come good on his reputation for big hitting, but on Monday, he waited for the opening before cutting loose. He was immensely powerful down the ground, and also adept at intentionally slicing the ball past point. He arched inside the line of an Aaron shortish delivery aimed at him and somehow steered it wide of point for four.

The fifth-wicket stand added 87 off 68, and Badoni hung around until the last over to set a target in the range of 160, quite a recovery from 29 for 4.

Hardik leads, bowls and bats

Hardik Pandya had a workout in all departments in his maiden outing as skipper in the IPL. With LSG having a horror Powerplay, he began stretching in the sixth over and brought himself on in the seventh. He operated in the early to mid-130s, with the odd ball clocked in the late 130s, and began with a couple of quiet overs. Despite having the options of Vijay Shankar and Rahul Tewatia, Hardik chose to give himself two more overs. The first two had gone for a collective seven runs, the next two went for 11 and 19.

He understandably took ages at times to set his field, almost never having had to set one before at the senior level. For instance, in the last over, he sent third man back and brought deep point in the circle. He then changed his mind, sending point back and bringing fine leg in.

At No. 4, he had to bat in an unfamiliar position and also play an unfamiliar game from 15 for 2. It reflected in the fact that even as 26 of his 33 runs came in boundaries, he still managed a strike rate of only 118. The all-or-nothing effort came to an end when he lofted brother Krunal straight to long-off. Fortunately for him, the trio of David Miller, Rahul Tewatia and Abhinav Manohar were up to an asking rate of 10 in the last eight overs as the dew aided another win for a chasing side.

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