IPL 2023: Gujarat spoil the party for KKR and Russell, storm to the top of the table
Synopsis: Gurbaz’s blitz takes KKR to a par score, but GT stroll through the chase courtesy Gill, Vijay Shankar and Miller
Gujarat Titans maintained their 100 per cent record of winning all away matches in IPL 2023, catapulting themselves back on the top of the points table after beating Kolkata Knight Riders at the Eden Gardens on Saturday evening. KKR, who have won only one game this season at home, was sent into bat after a 45-minute delayed start due to rain and a wet outfield. Young Afghanistan wicketkeeper-batter Rahmanullah Gurbaz set the stadium alight with a brilliant knock of 81 off 39 balls, but the lack of support from the other end meant the home team would end up with 179/7. GT romped home with seven wickets in hand and 13 balls to spare.
Tinkering with the top order
Even after eight matches this season, KKR are yet to put forward a settled top three. In each game, their top three have worn a different look and have failed consistently. This was the first time Thakur was batting at No.3 in his T20 career. But the tactical move did not work out as KKR would have liked as Shardul departed for a duck, courtesy of a brilliant catch by Mohit Sharma, who ran backwards to take a blinder. The absence of Jason Roy, rested due to a back niggle, also affected the Knight Riders as Jagadeesan fell to Shami in the third over itself. This prompted KKR to send Thakur but that didn’t work.
Even as KKR lost two in the Powerplay, Rahmanullah Gurbaz kept the scoreboard moving with his lusty blows. Gurbaz, who was a part of GT last year but did not get a game, employed the strategy of moving across the stumps and hitting the balls cleanly on the on-side as he helped KKR reach 50 in the Powerplay. In the Powerplay, he scored 39 runs in 15 balls, striking at 260.
Battle of the Afghans
Gurbaz’s national teammate Rashid Khan was deployed in the Powerplay to stop him but Rashid conceded 14 off his first over as Gurbaz whacked him for a six and a four in consecutive deliveries. Gurbaz continued his assault on Rashid even after the Powerplay, reading him easily, playing with the field. He reached his fifty in 27 balls, hitting four sixes and as many boundaries along the way. It was Rashid’s teammate Noor Ahmed who finally got the better of Gurbaz, but that was not before the right-hander had scored 81 off just 39 balls.
Did GT miss a Little trick?
Josh Little, introduced into the attack after the PowerPlay, broke the backbone of KKR’s batting with two crucial wickets of Venkatesh Iyer and skipper Nitish Rana in the 11th over of KKR’s innings. The left-armer stifled the Knights with his variations and cutters and built the pressure along with Noor Ahmed. The KKR batters had struggled against RCB’s David Willey’s left-arm pace as well at Eden Gardens. However, with someone like Little among the ranks, Hardik Pandya taking the new ball himself probably wasn’t a good idea. Little, a net bowler for CSK last year, scripted history when he became the first Ireland cricketer to play in the IPL; he was bought for Rs 4.4 crore by GT.
Birthday boy’s fireworks
Russell’s fireworks with the bat on his birthday lifted the spirits at Eden Gardens. He was particularly lethal on Rashid Khan, who had an off day conceding 54 runs in his four overs, smashing him for two sixes. However, in his own words, it looked like a ‘190-200 wicket’.
Gill and Gujarat begin on the offensive
Hunting down a target of 180 on a wicket that was offering spongy bounce could have been tricky for GT. But Gill, who came in the place of Mohit Sharma as an impact player, and Saha, both with a wealth of experience playing at Eden, began with a bang scoring 32 in the first three overs.
Pretty quickly, KKR resorted to spin as GT scored briskly with Gill and No. 3 Pandya. Narine, who went wicketless in the previous five matches, got the better of Gill (49). Pandya too fell soon to the young Harshit Rana.
Miller and Shankar take GT over the line
With the game evenly poised after 15 overs and Gujarat Titans reaching 129/3 (needing 51 from the last five overs), Vijay Shankar and David Miller had the task cut out. KKR did not help themselves either as their impact substitute Suyash Sharma dropped a simple catch to give Miller a life, leaving Russell in anger.
Shankar, who was struggling for timing early on, unleashed a flurry of big sixes on Varun Chakravarthy, smashing 24 in an over while Miller walloped 18 runs off the leg-spinner Suyash Sharma as GT brought down the asking rate from 10 to a run a ball and finished the chase to perfection.