IPL 2022: GT captain is team’s talisman in win over Royals after Buttler blitz is cut short

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Hardik Pandya and Abhinav Manohar dragged Gujarat Titans to 192 after another indifferent start, and Lockie Ferguson’s slower yorker limited Jos Buttler’s blitz to the Powerplay as Rajasthan Royals fell short by 37 runs.

GT top order fails again

Matthew Wade’s woes with the bat have meant GT have the worst average for the opening partnership this IPL – just 14.80. But the left-hander got a whole first over against Jimmy Neesham, as against the prospect of facing the swing of the injured Trent Boult, who sat out the game. Having got hit-me deliveries, on the pads and wide outside off, Wade helped himself to three fours in the Neesham over; it appeared as if this was the night GT’s opening stand would weigh in from both ends, for a change.

But GT would contrive to still go three down within an over after the Powerplay. Wade was run out by a direct hit from Rassie van der Dussen two balls after launching into Neesham. Vijay Shankar slashed and edged what would otherwise have been a Kuldeep Sen wide to the ’keeper. And Shubman Gill slammed Riyan Parag straight to long-on.

Hardik, Abhinav fire

Hardik Pandya is out of his comfort zone on all fronts this season. Maiden captaincy stint, new batting position, and bowling four overs in every game in his bid to make an India comeback. He’s had to carry the innings with the top order unable to forge partnerships, and consequently, his strike rate was 122.60 heading into this game; moreover, he’d hit just two sixes from 115 deliveries.

He came out in a different mood on Thursday though. His second ball of pace from Kuldeep Sen, Hardik tennis-forehanded down the ground for four. The next one was slashed over point for four more and he lashed at the next for a thick edge to the fine third-man rope. Hardik was on 25 off 14 when Gill fell. For about five overs, mostly of spin, he didn’t hit a single boundary. He’d still finish on 87 off 52, a strike rate of 167.31, with four sixes.

Abhinav Manohar, who added 86 with his captain in nine overs, said during the innings break that Hardik had told him to avoid high-risk shots until the 12th over, after which they would reassess.

And sure enough, Manohar charged Yuzvendra Chahal first ball of the 13th for a straight four and lofted the next for six over extra cover. This is his maiden IPL, and Manohar looks clearly out of his depth at times; he was clueless against Ashwin’s carrom balls. He kept edging the Sunrisers pacers in GT’s previous match and was dropped three times. But when he does get it off the middle, he holds his shape and belts it far. He slog-swept Chahal from outside off for six, but the leg-spinner had Abhinav top-edging a catch next when he tried the same stroke from the line of the stumps.

Hardik, meanwhile, continued to flay them straight or over long-on, or scythe them square. He felt his back at least once after a boundary, with the effort he was putting in. Also, fortunately for GT, David Miller came good after a struggle previously to get going, with 31 off 14.

In the previous match at DY Patil Stadium, CSK had hammered 156 runs off the last 10 overs. GT didn’t come close to that carnage but themselves took 120 off the second half of their innings.

Buttler and the rest

If RR had any hope of chasing down 193, Jos Buttler had to fire. And he did, for a while. It was thrilling while it lasted, and needed a cracker of a delivery from Lockie Ferguson to be cut short on 54 off 24.

Among the many aspects that make Buttler dangerous is the fact that his reaction can be so late, and so swift, that he simply stands and bashes the ball past cover after appearing to do absolutely nothing till the very last moment. Or he can smack that same delivery over mid-on.

The GT seamers tried denying him width, they tried making him hit to the slightly longer boundary. Hardik packed the square off-side region with short third man, fine backward point, point and cover. Buttler saw that and walloped the wide ones to the opposite side over cow corner instead. In between, he brought out his walking scoop over short fine leg.

Rashid Khan is usually saved for the latter half of the innings. Hardik brought him on as early as the fifth over. The leg-spinner rapped Buttler on the pad with a wrong ’un off the last ball of the over. Doing too much, said the umpire, and GT’s review returned umpire’s call. It seemed to be Buttler’s night, even more so when he calmly scooped Ferguson’s express pace for six.

The New Zealander’s response was a 126 kph slower yorker that comparatively took forever to arrive at a stunned Buttler and crashed into the base of off-and- middle. Nine balls later, Hardik ran out Sanju Samson, and that was effectively the game for GT.

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