Hard-hit Pandya takes Titans to glory

Skipper Hardik leads from the front as Gujarat beat Royals by 37 runs, move to the top of the points table.

Published: 15th April 2022 12:13 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th April 2022 12:13 AM   |  A+A-

Indian all-rounder Hardik Pandya

Indian all-rounder Hardik Pandya (Photo | PTI)

Express News Service

KOCHI: Pressure, responsibility, and spotlight can bring out the best in some individuals and that looks to be the case with Hardik Pandya who played yet another captain’s knock for Gujarat Titans against Rajasthan Royals on Thursday.

Coming into the game, the Rajasthan outfit was enjoying the view from the IPL table’s summit with three wins out of four, and interestingly, all those wins came when they had batted first. Against Gujarat, after winning the toss, Sanju Samson decided to deviate from the formula that worked for them so far by choosing to bowl first. It was a significant call as the Royals were looking to try and chase down a total for the first time this season. With Gujarat also on six points with three wins out of four of their own, the result of this match was going to have a huge bearing on which side kept the early momentum going and took the top spot.

The absence of Rajasthan’s bowling spearhead Trent Boult was always going to be a huge miss for them as the Kiwi pacer is a seasoned master at picking early wickets to put the opposition under pressure. But the Royals bowling coped well early on with some early breakthroughs inside the powerplay.

Jimmy Neesham, who replaced Boult, was given the first over only to concede 12 runs with Matthew Wade smashing him for four boundaries. However, Wade was undone by a stunning fielding effort from Rassie van der Dussen soon and Vijay Shankar’s stay at the crease was short-lived as he fell after making just two runs from seven balls.

The plan to bowl first looked to be working well despite Boult’s absence, until Hardik Pandya walked out to bat. The skipper found himself out in the middle by the third over, and once Shubman Gill also departed, the pressure was firmly on his shoulders to anchor Gujarat’s innings. And once again, Hardik rose to the occasion for Gujarat. It was an indication of how the cricketer is growing into a captain’s role this season, given the pressure that the team was under when he had walked in.

Hardik stayed on till the end and struck an unbeaten 87 while forging two big partnerships with Abhinav Manohar (43) and David Miller (31 n.o) as the Titans raced away to their highest score in the IPL in their maiden season.

Captaining a side who are just making their foray into the tournament is not easy but Hardik looks to be thriving in the role given the form he is showing with the bat as the team has had a strong start to the season. It was also the first time in his IPL career that the all-rounder scored back-to-back fifties. Abhinav Manohar beautifully complemented his skipper as a two-pronged attack put Royals on the backfoot.

After an impressive debut in the last game against Lucknow Super Giants, it was a chastening night for pacer Kuldeep Sen who was smashed all around the park as most bowlers didn’t have any luck. Hardik and Abhinav stitched together a crucial 86-run partnership which was finally broken by Yuzvendra Chahal as Abhinav departed while trying to attack the purple cap holder. However, they had no answers to Hardik who kept smashing bowlers at will with Miller joining in. The two took Gujarat to 192 for four with an unbeaten 53-run stand from 25 balls.

In reply, Rajasthan crumbled after Jos Buttler’s early onslaught and eventually fell short by 37 runs to hand Gujarat their fourth win of the season.

Brief scores: GT 192/4 in 20 ovs (Pandya 82 n.o, Manohar 43; Parag 1/12) beat RR 155/9 in 20 ovs (Buttler 54; Ferguson 3/23).



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