Gujarat Titans capped a remarkable IPL debut season, winning the 15th edition of the league in an emphatic fashion. Their seven-wicket win over Rajasthan Royals on Sunday was largely engineered by a magnificent spell from captain and right-arm medium-pacer Hardik Pandya, and leg-spinner Rashid Khan. Their combined eight overs cost only 35 runs and fetched four wickets, all top-order batsmen.
Pandya bowled from the ninth over and struck in his first, third and fourth overs, completing his four overs in one spell of 4-0-17-3. Khan began in the last over of Power Play and finished at 15th, bowling in two spells of 2-0-12-0 and 2-0-6-1.
Both Pandya and Khan were released by their earlier franchises Mumbai Indians and Sunrisers Hyderabad, respectively, the only teams they had played for before this year’s IPL. They were retained by Gujarat Titans for an identical purse of ₹15Cr each.
The combined value of ₹30Cr was worth every Rupee as Titans were worthy winners. Pandya and Khan bowled in tandem from over Nos. 11 to 15, in which phase Titans gave away only 23 runs and picked up three key wickets. Khan enjoyed the bounce that the pitch offered, adjusted his length according to the batsman he was bowling to. The key for him was to bowl in the right areas, something he has maintained in the second half of the IPL season after taking time to adjust with the line and length in the first half. He has been rewarded for his adjustments.
In the final, Khan may not have taken wickets by the bagful. But he was miserly. His figures would have been four runs less had Sai Kishore not fumbled at cover a Sanju Samson drive, off the first ball he bowled. That was the only boundary the wrist spinner conceded. Khan operated when the right-handers Samson and Buttler were in the middle and kept them under check along with Pandya at the other end.
In the first over of his comeback spell (12th over of the innings), Khan consumed the struggling RR left-hander Devdutt Padikkal, who cut him straight to short third man Md Shami. He kept Buttler quiet, not allowing him to open up and pick the long-off and long-on boundaries. Khan was prepared for the Buttler onslaught as he fancied his chances of scalping the Englishman but the Orange Cap winner did not take any risk against the Afghanistani.
Buttler’s inability to hit Khan put him under pressure and succumbed eventually to Pandya in the 15th over. For the second successive time, Khan was miserly, following his none for 15 in his four overs in the Qualifier 1 against the same opponents with Sunday’s another economical spell.
Khan, though took only one wicket against Royals in IPL 2022, gave very less and his figures were crucial in Titans winning all their three matches against RR – the league match in which he had 0/24 followed by the Qualifier 1 and the final.
Khan’s spell also put pressure on the Royals lower-order, thereby his spinning mate, left-armer R Sai Kishore picked up two wickets in the final overs, those of R Ashwin and Trent Boult, both out caught in the deep.
Pandya had 14 dot balls, beginning with four consecutive ones to the left-handed Padikkal after removing Samson. He had not conceded a boundary in his first 21 deliveries before Hetmyer scored two consecutive fours, moving aside to hit over mid-off and steered the next to third man before giving a return catch off Pandya’s last delivery.
Add to Khan’s nine dot balls and the Pandya-Khan combine were instrumental in Titans restricting to a total that they met without having to break a sweat. Khan, who finished with 19 wickets at an economy rate of 6.59, and Pandya provided the turning point for their team’s title victory, without a doubt.