Kolkata, April 29: Defending champions Gujarat Titans once again came up with a clinical display to prevail over Kolkata Knight Riders by seven wickets and climb to the top of the table in the IPL, here on Saturday.
It was sweet revenge for Titans, who lost their home game due to Rinku Singh’s heroics.
First it was, the Titans pace duo of Mohammad Shami (3/33) and Josh Little (2/25) picked five wickets between them, while left-arm spinner Noor Ahmad (2/21) continued his fine run to restrict KKR to a below-par 179/7 after Hardik Pandya opted to bowl.
On a batting-friendly strip, Rahmanullah Gurbaz’s scintillating 39-ball 81 set the tempo, but KKR managed just 45 runs and lost three wickets in the final five overs to miss the psychological 200-run mark.
In reply, GT raced to the target in 17.5 overs with Vijay Shankar remaining unbeaten on 51 off 24 balls (2×4, 5×6).
Defending the paltry total, the home side had their moments when they dismissed a flawless Shubman Gill one run shy of fifty and almost had David Miller on 26.
But they made a harakiri of sorts as Miller’s skier, which would have been a straightforward catch by their wicketkeeper, was attempted by Suyash Sharma from third man and he ended up grassing it.
GT at that time still needed 51 runs from 29 balls but it turned out to be a game-changing moment as Shankar and Miller (32 not out; 18b, 2×4, 2×6) sealed the issue in an unbroken 87-run unbroken partnership that came off 39 balls.
The win took GT to top spot in the table with 12 points from eight matches as they need to win two more matches to seal the playoff berth for a second time on the trot.
KKR on the other hand staring at early elimination after enduring their sixth defeat from nine matches as they now face must win all their remaining five matches.
Gill (49; 35b) gave GT a perfect start after losing Wriddhiman Saha (10) early as he along with skipper Hardik Pandya laid the foundation in a 50-run partnership.
Having conceded 18 runs from his first two oves, Sunil Narine returned in the 12th over to end his five-match wickless drought when he dismissed Gill.
At 102/3 after 13 overs, KKR still had the edge when Suyash bowled a four-run over with three dot balls as the required run-rate for GT shot past 11.
But the South African batter broke the shackles with a boundary off Chakravarthy, before taking Suyash to cleaners, in a 18-run over.
Miller smashed the rookie legspinner for two sixes in a row, before Shankar also chipped in with a boundary as there was no looking back for GT from there on.
Returning to the side after Jason Roy pulled out because of a back spasm, the Afghanistan opener struck his second fifty of the season as he smashed seven sixes and five fours en route to his 39-ball knock.
But once rookie Afghanistan spinner Noor Ahmed (4-0-21-2) dismissed his teammate with compatriot Rashid Khan completing a well-judged catch, KKR didn’t make good use of the final few overs as Mohammed Shami (3/33 in 4 overs) and Irishman Josh Little (2/25 in 4 overs) did play their part to perfection.
At 135/5, KKR had the firepower of Andre Russell and Rinku Singh with 28 balls to go.
But Rinku became Noor’s second victim, while ‘birthday boy’ Russell could not express himself fully with GT bowlers doing well to restrict him for a 19-ball 34 not out (2×4, 3×6).
The match begun after a 45-minute rain interruption and KKR lost two wickets in the powerplay to Shami.
The India pacer dismissed Narayan Jagadeesan (19 off 15 balls) and comeback-man Shardul Thakur who capped a four-ball duck before being caught by superb backward running catch by Mohit Sharma.
But that did not drag back KKR as Gurbaz showed the way with some clean powerhitting, racing to a 27-ball fifty with four fours and four sixes.
Making his intent clear, Gurbaz teed off smashing GT skipper Pandya for two sixes in three balls.
He then took the attack on Shami with disdain. The Indian pace spearhead angled a delivery onto him but Gurbaz was in full flow as he backed away and smashed it straight over the bowler’s head to race to 26 off 10 balls.
Rashid (0/54 in 4 overs) was brought in but he also failed to stem the flow of runs with a relentless Gurbaz striking in full force. (PTI)