Shami and Saha lead the way as Titans ensure top-two finish
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Mohammed Shami picked up 2 for 19 from his four overs (BCCI)
Mohammed Shami picked up 2 for 19 from his four overs (BCCI)

(ESPNCRICINFO) – At the start of the season, the talk was that they were an inexperienced team without proper squad balance. Their initial wins were put down to beginners’ luck, or plain old luck.

But as the league stage of IPL 2022 chugged along, the Gujarat Titans juggernaut has rolled on, and with their tenth win in 13 games, Hardik Pandya’s side, on Sunday afternoon, became the first team to be assured of a top-two finish.

The last time they met Chennai Super Kings, Titans needed David Miller and Rashid Khan to pull off a heist to take them home from a difficult position.

This time, Titans bossed an underwhelming Super Kings through the whole game. Titans did not experiment with their XI, while Super Kings gave some new faces a go, and in the end, the team in form proved too hot for MS Dhoni’s inexperienced XI.

A stop-start-stop innings
They lost just five wickets, but scored only 133. Dhoni said at the toss that Super Kings would bat first so that they wouldn’t have to field in the heat, but perhaps there was an adverse effect on the batters. Ruturaj Gaikwad made 53, but took 49 deliveries, failing to pull off the big shots after an initial burst in the powerplay. When he was out in the 16th over, he looked exhausted, and in partnerships with Moeen Ali and N Jagadeesan, he often seemed to settle for ones that could have been twos in less oppressive conditions.

Well before Gaikwad’s dismissal, though, came a top spell with the new ball from Mohammed Shami, who came around the stumps to Devon Conway and got a ball to hold its line, causing the attempted flick to end up as an edge to the keeper. Shami’s angle from around the stumps to left-handers has been a ploy throughout the IPL, and brought him four left-hander wickets and an economy rate of 6.07 as against just the one wicket and an economy rate of 9.85 from over the wicket.

Moeen came in at No. 3 and hit Rashid Khan for two sixes in the sixth over, but fell for a 17-ball 21 in the ninth over after misreading the pace out of left-arm spinner R Sai Kishore’s hand.

Jagadeesan faced the best of Rashid and Alzarri Joseph in the middle overs, failing to change the innings’ gears, and after Gaikwad and Shivam Dube fell in quick succession, the Super Kings innings fizzled out.

They struck no boundaries in the last five overs, and picked up just 24 runs in that period, among the worst-case scenarios for a batting side with five wickets in the bag. Rashid conceded just 14 off his last three overs, Shami collected a second wicket, and Yash Dayal came back strong after a 15-run opening over.

Saha leads the way
Super Kings needed an early wicket, and Mukesh Choudhary – tied with Shami at the start of the innings for the most powerplay wickets (11) – went full to Wriddhiman Saha in search of movement. Saha began with two streaky boundaries off Choudhary, and in the next over was nearly caught out off the same bowler, but survived after Gaikwad dropped him on 21.

Saha did not rein in his strokeplay after the reprieve, and soon pulled Simarjeet Singh for the first six of the innings. After five overs, Titans were 45 for no loss and Shubman Gill had only scored 7 off 7.

Gill eventually fell on 18 to debutant Matheesha Pathirana’s first ball in the IPL. Pathirana, a Sri Lankan seamer with a slingy action in the mould of Lasith Malinga, fired his first ball full on the stumps, and Gill failed to flick it away.

Super Kings needed another quick wicket, but that did not come as Matthew Wade settled in with Saha for a handy 31-run stand. Moeen picked off Wade in the 12th over and Hardik became Pathirana’s second IPL scalp, but with only 37 runs needed in 43 balls, the Titans remained well ahead in the contest.

The perfect end for the Titans would be for Saha to carry his bat, and he did just that, knocking the ball around to reach his third fifty of the season, and then hit the winning runs off the first ball of the final over to finish with 67 off 57 balls. Miller scored a sedate 20-ball 15 to chaperone the team home from the other end.

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