IPL 2023: Vijay Shankar, David Miller steer Gujarat Titans to easy victory over KKR

By, Kolkata
Apr 29, 2023 09:09 PM IST

KKR, despite Rahmanullah Gurbaz’s blistering 81, only managed to score 179/7 and the IPL champions chased it down with 13 balls to spare at the Eden Gardens

Vijay Shankar has a thing for the bowling of Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR). With the match slightly tilted in KKR’s favour on a wicket where the ball was gripping, the Gujarat Titans (GT) batter spoilt Andre Russell’s 35th birthday by tearing into the spinners. In the process, he turned KKR’s strength into their Achilles heel for a seven-wicket win on Saturday.

Gujarat Titans' Vijay Shankar (L) celebrates after scoring a half-century (50 runs) during the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket match(AFP)
Gujarat Titans' Vijay Shankar (L) celebrates after scoring a half-century (50 runs) during the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket match(AFP)

Shankar had made 63 off 24 in Ahmedabad but was overshadowed by Rinku Singh’s six-hitting abilities. Here, his 51* (24b; 2x4; 5x6) and David Miller’s 32* off 18, and their unbroken 87-run stand in 41 balls ensured the defending champions maintained their all-win away record with the kind of ease that didn’t look possible when they got together in the 12th over.

A mix of light and shade, KKR’s innings mirrored the conditions at Eden. The blistering sun gave way to wispy rain as GT opted to field. Rahmanullah Gurbaz gave them the start and Russell some power at the end but as the big Jamaican said on television at the innings break, 179/7 was possibly 20 short. That happened because no one batted around Gurbaz.

Shardul Thakur fell to a catch that would remind people of a certain vintage of one at Lord’s in 1983; Mohit Sharma running back to pouch what looked like a good chip. Venkatesh Iyer showed poor judgement against Josh Little on a day the Irishman put in a player-of-the-match performance with a spell of 4-0-25-2. Three balls after Iyer left, Nitish Rana went.

At the halfway stage, GT were slightly ahead at 89/1. KKR pulled things back when, after going without a wicket for five games, Sunil Narine ended a typically fluent innings from Shubman Gill after Hardik Pandya had walked on being trapped leg-before by Harshit Rana, playing because Umesh Yadav was injured. The chant of “KKR, KKR” circulated around the amphitheatre but in some style Shankar and Miller silenced them. KKR’s best over yielded 17; GT took 24 in the 17th, 18 in the 15th and had thrown the gauntlet with 19 in the third.

After Iyer and Rana fell, Rinku Singh and Gurbaz rebuilt with a 47-run stand. But barring a swing for six off Sharma, Singh struggled with timing. No such problems for Gurbaz. Jason Roy was preferred over the Afghan for three games but with the Englishman ruled out with a back problem, Gurbaz resumed from where he had left off at this venue. Against Royal Challengers Bangalore, he had scored 57. Against the defending champions, Gurbaz (81 -- 39b; 5x4; 7x6) improved on that with shots all around the park.

Two sixes off Hardik Pandya got Gurbaz swinging his arms and it didn’t stop till he fell to a full toss from left-arm wrist-spinner Noor Ahmad, Rashid Khan taking a well-judged catch. Picking the length early, Gurbaz hit two sixes and three fours off Khan but also played a text book forward defensive shot. With a lofted off-drive for six off Ahmad, he broke the shackles that had seen KKR go without a boundary for 22 balls.

When Khan tried to flight, Gurbaz smoked him over long-off for six and followed that with a boundary through midwicket. GT’s go-to bowler went for 54 in four overs.

Struggling with the left-arm bowler’s natural angle and his back-of-length deliveries, Little was the only bowler Gurbaz couldn’t deal with. Like Mohammed Shami, Little bowled 12 dots balls, five of them in the 11th over. Despite’s Russell’s power-packed 34 (19b; 3x4, 2x6), Ahmad and Little ensured KKR couldn’t take off in the last four overs which yielded 42. “They got back us in the game,” said skipper Pandya.

Unable to match Titans in the field – Suyash Sharma dropping Miller on 26 off Russell may be the moment when a play-off berth eluded KKR – and in forging partnerships like Gill and Pandya and then Miller and Shankar, KKR fell short despite having their moments. It has been their story of the season.

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    Dhiman Sarkar is based in Kolkata with over two decades as a sports journalist. He writes mainly on football.

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