Imagine you’re playing a cricketing scenarios version of KBC.

Your question is: A team is 109 for 2 after 15 overs of a T20 match. They’ve got a batsman set at the crease who has shown several times that the longer his innings’ go, the more his boundaries flow. They’ve got a big-hitting legend to come in still. And also another young six-hitter in the shed. And now for 1 crore rupees, you need to guesstimate the team’s final score.

Given the team situation, around 50 runs in the last five might be a reasonable estimate. Set batters in, big hitters waiting…if the bowling side is a good one, then you can apply the #PotentBowling code to get a 10 percent discount on the runs. Maybe the pitch isn’t exactly letting the ball come on to the bat well, so add in a #SlowSurface further discount. You should still expect the team to get 40 to 45 runs and therefore end up with something in the region of 150.

Is that your final guess? Congratulations, you’ve lost all your money.

Chennai Super Kings were 109 for 2 in 15 overs, they had Ruturaj Gaikwad batting on 51 off 45, and MS Dhoni and Shivam Dube waiting to bat. And they ended up 133 or 5 in 20 overs.  Not a single boundary hit in the last five overs, only 24 runs scored, and three wickets lost.

It was a death-overs masterclass by Gujarat Titans, as much for its planning and conception as for its execution. Despite the position the Super Kings found themselves in, they couldn’t score a single boundary in the last five overs. The set batters tried and got out, the big-hitters came and went. The Titans bowlers were like a hybrid of a python and cobra, strangling and striking simultaneously.

When the Titans batted, Wriddhiman Saha played another of his-now customary firebrand knocks at the top of the order to ensure the target was breached smoothly, but the wickets and quiet overs that were minor speedbumps in the chase would have been more significant hurdles if the Super Kings were defending a higher target.

The Titans bowling was all the more impressive given the specifics of what had gone on in the match. Rashid Khan, bowling the final powerplay over, had the rare experience of being clouted for two sixes in an over and giving up 17 runs. Despite this, Hardik Pandya trusted his T20 G.O.A.T and Rashid bowled two out of the last five overs, the 16th and the 18th. He gave up a combined seven runs in them while also taking a wicket. Merely Rashid, doing Rashid things.

On a slow pitch, Alzarri Joseph bowled the 17th over at pace, bounced out Dube, and allowed only two scoring shots, for a single and a two.

The meticulousness of the Titans’ bowling plans then were shown when Hardik gave the young Yash Dayal over 19. He could have gone with an Alzarri and Mohammed Shami combo for the last two. But the offside boundary was much bigger, there were two right-handers at the crease, and trying to hack a left-arm pacer going across them to the legside, was going to be way more difficult than attempting the same against a right-arm pacer. That is of course, provided both varieties of bowlers offered similar control. 

Hardik, and the Titans’, had seen the skills Dayal had, were convinced he could pull it off, and in the bargain, added that much battle-hardening to a rookie bowler.

“Our bowling plans have been really specific,” Gary Kirsten would acknowledge after the game. “Ashish (Nehra) I think has done a great job in making sure he’s put together a really strong bowling unit, with good experience in it. But also, Yash Dayal is an incredibly talented young player, and I think to have a left-armer in your bowling attack that can bowl across the 20 overs, is really, really important. So this was a great opportunity for us to use him in the 19th over, where there is a little bit of pressure. He’s done it before for us in the tournament. It was a long boundary on one side of the field so he could take advantage of that. And he bowled a great over, went for eight. So that’s real confidence for him.”

It was left to Shami to finish things off. He had already started brilliantly – he’s been to the Titans’ powerplay bowling what Saha has been to the batting – and he needed to ensure there was no last-over surge that allowed the Super Kings a feel-good momentum.

It was the death overs, but the bowling attack felt more alive than ever, leaving the batsmen with a fairly straightforward job to do. They did it clinically, and Gujarat Titans completed the formality of sealing a top-two finish in the league. Now, if whether they would do it or not was the 1 crore question, you’d have won easily.


~Saurabh Somani