Gujarat Titans 133 for 3 (Gill 45*, Hardik 34, Boult 1-14) beat Rajasthan Royals 130 for 9 (Buttler 39, Hardik 3-17, Sai Kishore 2-20) by seven wickets
The damage proved irreparable, especially for a line-up that had R Ashwin, Riyan Parag, Trent Boult, Obed McCoy, Prasidh Krishna and Yuzvendra Chahal from Nos. 6 to 11.
Royals took out Wriddhiman Saha and Matthew Wade early in their defence of 130, but Hardik, the batter, stopped them in their tracks, with 34 off 30 balls. Chahal snagged Hardik in the 14th over, with Titans 45 away from victory, but Shubman Gill and David Miller coolly finished the job that Hardik had started in grand style.
The Royal slowdown
Yashasvi Jaiswal, Royals’ powerplay dasher, needed eight balls to get off the mark on Sunday. When Mohammed Shami erred full, Jaiswal pumped him down the ground and over extra-cover for boundaries. Yash Dayal, however, had him hauling a pull to deep square leg for 22 off 16 balls.
As for Buttler, he dawdled to 10 off 14 balls in the powerplay, and struggled to hit a higher gear throughout his 35-ball stay. The slowdown from the openers forced Samson to take risks at the other end. After hitting two fours in his first three balls, the second via a fumble, Samson shaped to line-up Hardik’s hard length, only to sky a catch to Sai Kishore at backward point.
Hardik continued to pound the hard lengths and ensured that Devdutt Padikkal couldn’t score a single run off the bat against him from seven balls. Something had to give and that something was Padikkal throwing his bat at Rashid Khan and swishing a catch to backward point for 2 off 10 balls.
Buttler threatened to break free with back-to-back fours off Shami in the tenth over, but Hardik had him limply guiding a catch to the keeper for 39 soon after. Hardik wasn’t done yet with the ball. He capped his spell by having Hetmyer plopping a return catch for 11 off 12 balls. In more encouraging signs for India, Hardik bowled without the fear of injury and even let rip bouncers at speed north of 140kph.
Sai Kishore fronts up to bowl at the death
Hardik, the captain, didn’t miss a beat either. Once the left-handed pair of Padikkal and Hetmyer were dismissed, Hardik introduced Sai Kishore into the attack. Fronting up to bowl the 16th and 18th overs, the left-arm fingerspinner responded with the wickets Ashwin and Boult.
Miller, Gill bring Titans home
The only way for Royals to claw their way back into the game was to make early inroads. Prasidh and Boult did that, getting rid of Saha and Wade respectively to leave Titans wobbling at 23 for 2 in the fifth over.
Gill could’ve also been dismissed in the powerplay had Chahal held onto a catch at short square leg. Gill, who was on zero at that point, pressed on to score an unbeaten 45 off 43 balls. It was Hardik, though, who put Titans’ chase back on track when he hit three boundaries in seven balls after being on 11 off 17 balls.
When Chahal coaxed an outside edge from Hardik, he snatched the purple cap from fellow legspinner Wanindu Hasaranga. Miller, however, laid into Royals’ attack and gave Titans’ first IPL campaign a rousing finish.
Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo