“I think that’s why opposition teams could never make a plan against us, that this is the guy who is going to win the game for them. Because all eleven were taking the responsibility. That’s why we were on the right side, the winning side, the maximum number of times.” – Rashid Khan.
Rashid’s words ring truer for Gujarat Titans than any other team this IPL. It has truly been an all-round effort. And while there have been the headline-men in every win, the Titans have been experts at winning key moments within games. Here’s how.
March 28, v Lucknow Super Giants: Rahul Tewatia and David Miller performed the first of their turbo-charged finishes. Two batsmen whose buying in the auction had triggered debate, coming together in the Titans’ very first match. Both going at less than a run-a-ball initially, and faced with an equation that read 68 off 30. The next two overs set the tone for the season: 22 came off one, 17 off the next, and the template for the Titans’ season was set. It was two overs only, but it turned the game.
April 2, v Delhi Capitals: Hardik Pandya marshalled strained resources, defending only a par total, against a powerful batting line-up like Delhi’s. Varun Aaron had bowled just one over in the chase and gone off injured. Hardik needed to conjure a fifth bowler’s quota out of thin air almost. And ranged against him were Prithvi Shaw, Rishabh Pant, Rovman Powell and company. He got one over each from Tewatia and Vijay Shankar in, ensuring that either side of them there would be bowlers who could bowl tight. And he showed magnificent T20 smarts in treating the game as a 19-over one. By the time Tewatia came on to bowl the 20th, nine Capitals wickets had been prised out, and there were 24 runs to get.
April 8, v Punjab Kings: Tewatia tore up every script written, and rewrote every win probability. “I think the standouts for me has been Rahul Tewatia,” Miller said, looking back. “His two sixes… we needed 12 off the last two balls and he won the game there.” He would later add, “It’s been an incredible season. We’ve won games that I haven’t ever seen being won before.”
April 14, v Rajasthan Royals: This was Hardik Pandya’s match, but Miller gave the first concrete glimpse of just how spectacular a season it would be for him. Walking in at the death, and being only 2 off his first 6 balls, Miller’s scoring sequence after that was: 4, 4, 4, 6, 2, 4, 4 as he waded into Prasidh Krishna and Kuldeep Sen. It was only the fifth match of the season for the Titans, but Miller’s blast was a portent of what he would do in the remaining games.
April 17, v Chennai Super Kings: Rashid waltzed into the chase against Chennai Super Kings and hit 6, 6, 4, 6 to start the 18th over, bringing 48 off 18 needed to 26 off 14. And before that, Alzarri Joseph, Mohammed Shami, Yash Dayal, Joseph again and then Rashid pulled CSK back from 124 for 2 in 14 overs to 151 for 4 in 19 overs. Giving up less than a run-a-ball for a large chunk of the death overs, keeping the runs in check so that the Rashid sixes and the Miller magic had a target that was just within the realm of the possible.
April 23, v Kolkata Knight Riders: Dayal stared down one of the most fearsome hitters in the history of the game, and got Andre Russell fending to fine leg. He had overstepped, but that was the third straight short ball to the batsman, and the rookie had Dre Russ ducking, then top-edging for four, then fending. Yes, the batsman would go on to hit 48 off 25, but he was greeted with a statement of intent from what was supposed to be the weaker part of the Titans’ attack. A powerful statement.
April 27, v Sunrisers Hyderabad: Tewatia was authoring a forgotten gem, as Titans avenged their earlier loss to Sunrisers Hyderabad. Umran Malik bowled faster than the wind, and Rashid’s shot-making seemed to be borne by the wind, but there was Tewatia, taking on the Sunrisers’ best death bowlers – Bhuvneshwar Kumar and T Natarajan – and ensuring enough runs had come so that the Titans were in position to lasso another miracle and pull it towards them. The three overs after Umran’s spell finished fetched 34 runs, and Tewatia hit 20 of those from 11 balls.
April 30, v Royal Challengers Bangalore: Sai Sudharsan played the bridge between the top order and the now familiar Miller-Tewatia finishing one-two punch. Sent in at No.3, Sudharsan saw Gill and Hardik depart within 10 balls of each other. He made 20 off 14, but what a valuable 20 it was. He hit only two fours, but they were off Harshal Patel and Wanindu Hasaranga, RCB’s masters of middle-overs control. It is on such moments-within-moments won that Titans have built their season.
May 10, v Lucknow Super Giants: Mohammed Shami bowled an opening spell of 3-0-5-1, the wicket that of KL Rahul, as Titans came out blazing to defend 144. In that same match, Rashid came on to bowl in the eighth over, faced with Deepak Hooda, a renowned spin-hitter, and Krunal Pandya, whose left-handedness would have made it theoretically easier for him against Rashid. He took out Krunal with a googly in a three-run over, which marked the decisive swing of the game away from Super Giants and towards Titans.
May 15, v Chennai Super Kings: Sai Kishore, playing against his ‘home’ franchise was brought on in the middle overs with Moeen Ali and Ruturaj Gaikwad in flow, and gave up only 18 runs in his first three overs, four of them from a bottom edge. And got Moeen out in his first over too. A spell that played its part in stifling CSK to a total that the Titans could chase down despite a tricky pitch.
May 24, v Rajasthan Royals: Hardik and Miller formed the perfect jugalbandi when helming the chase in the first qualifier. You might remember those three Miller sixes to finish the game, but – as ever – the game was brought to that stage by some expert construction. Hardik pounced on Obed McCoy’s first over, before the bowler had time to get his bearings fully right. The Titans captain was aware that he needed to be watchful against Yuzvendra Chahal, and had no problem pushing him for singles to fielders in the deep. That was when Miller took the baton and ran with it. Two of Chahal’s overs, twice he made errors in length to Miller. Both times, Miller launched him over the boundary.
Gujarat Titans have built a debut season of dreams, regardless of how their final match goes.