Match Report – RR vs GT 24th Match, April 10, 2024

Gujarat Titans 199 for 7 (Gill 72, Rashid 24*, Tewatia, 22, Kuldeep 3-41) beat Rajasthan Royals 196 for 3 (Samson 68, Parag 76, Rashid 1-18) by three wickets

Rajasthan Royals did almost everything they could to go 5-0 on top of the IPL 2024 points table. But Rashid Khan happened.

Rashid conceded just 18 off his four overs, and should have had at least one more wicket but for dropped catches; without his effort, Gujarat Titans could have been chasing a lot more than 197. That was a difficult ask in itself, and it came down to 40 off 15 balls when they lost their sixth wicket.

Guess who walked in then? Yes, him again.

It’s never over if Rashid is at the crease, especially if Rahul Tewatia is at the other end, and so it proved. It came down to 15 off the last over, which Avesh Khan bowled with only four fielders on the boundary with Royals having incurred an in-game over-rate penalty. Rashid hit two fours off the first three balls, and got back on strike for the last ball with Tewatia sacrificing his wicket at the danger end while going for a third that would have levelled the scores.

Two to get, one ball left, and Avesh went short and outside off. Rashid unfurled his wrists, among the strongest and most flexible in world cricket, and carved the ball to the vacant boundary beyond point, and Titans had ended Royals’ unbeaten run.

Rashid vs Royals, part 1

Yashasvi Jaiswal threatened to break his run of low scores with a series of thrilling off-side boundaries early on, but both he and Jos Buttler fell inside the powerplay, leaving Royals 42 for 2.

Buttler departed in Rashid’s first over, the sixth of the innings, edging a sharply turning legbreak to slip while trying to drive inside-out. The first ball he had faced from Rashid had kept low and beaten him outside off, giving Royals an early clue of how difficult they would find it to score against Rashid.

Rashid could have dismissed Riyan Parag later in that over, or in his next over, as Royals’ No. 4 reached away from his body and edged a pair of legbreaks. Keeper Matthew Wade, however, put him down.

Parag and Samson set up challenging total

At times, Noor Ahmad looked just as threatening as his Afghan spin twin at the other end, but he didn’t quite bowl with the same control of length. Parag took every opportunity he got to slog-sweep Noor, when he went a little too full or a little too far down the leg side, and that shot brought him three sixes and a four against the left-arm wristspinner. In all, Parag hit 33 off 17 against Noor, the centrepiece of another impressive display, his third fifty in five innings this season.

Sanju Samson didn’t have as much of the strike as Parag early on in their partnership – he was on 29 off 20 when Parag reached his half-century off 34 balls. He made a telling impact when he did get on strike, however, showing off his range of shots, including a stunning pair of hits off Spencer Johnson in the 15th over: two short-of-length balls, punched wide of extra-cover for four and flat-batted over long-on for six.

The one bowler the third-wicket pair didn’t go after, though, was Rashid. Parag scored 13 off 15 against him, and Samson five off six. His final over, the 16th, produced five singles and a dot.

You could see why Royals played him this way. R Ashwin was slotted at No. 7, and Royals have tended not to use a batter as their Impact substitute even when they’ve lost early wickets. They’ve preferred to stack their bowling, and by playing out Rashid they ensured they could do this again: Keshav Maharaj came in for his IPL debut, partnering Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal in a formidable spin attack.

With Rashid’s quota done, Royals went hard, taking 57 off their last four overs. Parag fell in the 19th, and Shimron Hetmyer, who has seldom got a chance to get his eye in this season, clattered an unbeaten 13 off 5 as he and Samson hit 24 off the last eight balls of the innings.

Gill sets the platform, Sen and Chahal wreck it

Titans hit some sumptuous shots in their powerplay – Sai Sudharsan uppercut Avesh for six, Shubman Gill launched Maharaj inside-out over the cover boundary – but they went at less than eight an over in that phase, ending it at 44 for no loss.

Even their good overs weren’t ending up as truly big overs – Sudharsan punched Chahal for back-to-back fours to start the eighth, but Titans only scored 12 off the over, and could have lost Sudharsan had Chahal not dropped a return catch.

When Kuldeep Sen, playing his first game of the season, made a dramatic entry with the wickets of Sudharsan, Wade and Abhinav Manohar in the space of 10 legal balls, Titans appeared to be going nowhere, needing 118 off the last 9.2 overs with seven wickets in hand.

Vijay Shankar showed a bit of initiative and inventiveness to hit three fours in his first nine balls, but he was bowled missing a sweep off Chahal, and Titans went into their last six needing 86. Gill, on 53 off 37, hadn’t hit a boundary since the 10th over.

Gill changed gears at that point, hitting Ashwin for a pair of fours in the 15th over and starting the 16th with two more fours, freeing his arms to take full toll of Chahal’s line wide of off stump. Then came what seemed a decisive moment: Gill stepped out, perhaps a touch too early, and Chahal, seeing him coming, fired it even wider – a genuine wide – to have him stumped for 72 off 44.

Titans’ finishers finish it off

The last four began with Titans needing 59, and the extra muscle in their line-up – they had included the out-and-out T20 hitters Manohar and Shahrukh Khan for the first time this season – began to pay off. Ashwin’s final over, the 17th, went for 17, as Shahrukh and Tewatia hit him for a six and two fours between them, bringing the equation down to 42 off 18.

Royals have used Avesh and Sandeep Sharma as their main death bowlers this season, with Trent Boult not used even once in this phase. Boult conceded only eight in his two powerplay overs here, but Royals continued to not use him at the death here, trusting Avesh to do his assigned job and Sen to step into the absent Sandeep’s shoes.

Avesh conceded just seven in the 18th over, along the way spearing in a full ball to trap Shahrukh lbw, playing across it.

The momentum seemed to be with Royals, but Sen’s 19th reversed it, as Tewatia, Rashid and extras combined to shave 20 off the 35 that Titans required. The last ball of that over, shortish and angled across the left-handed Tewatia, produced a terrific shot under pressure, flat-batted calmly over mid-off.

This left Titans needing 15 off 6. This team, with largely the same personnel, had successfully achieved last-over chases of 15 or more on three occasions during their fairytale debut season of 2022. Tewatia and Rashid had been stars of that season and their runners-up second season in 2023, and they were in the middle again. Was there any way for Titans not to win?

Karthik Krishnaswamy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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