Miller, Pandya chase down tall total as GT enter IPL final in style

KOLKATA: Captaincy sometimes brings out the best from a player and Hardik Pandya seems to be the best example. The allrounder, who is maturing as leader and performer with every match, once again led from the front to help his side Gujarat Titans beat Rajasthan Royals by seven wickets in Qualifier 1 of the IPL at the Eden Gardens here on Tuesday.


With the win, Gujarat booked a ticket to the final in their maiden appearance in the tournament. It was not a typical slam-bang innings generally associated with T20 cricket, but Pandya, who never looked to be in any trouble, kept the asking rate always under control to steal the thunder from a Sanju Samson-Jos Buttler show earlier in the evening. The Royals put up a 188/6 after being asked to bat first by Pandya.

GT reached the target with three balls remaining, thanks to some sensational six-hitting by David Miller (68 off 38 balls, 3×4, 5×6) in the final over, getting 191 for three. RR pacer Trent Boult struck early, having Wriddhiman Saha caught behind in the second ball of the GT innings, but Shubman Gill took charge, playing some delightful shots to help the side get their highest run (64/1) in the Powerplay.

Miller gave his skipper able company, finishing off with three consecutive sixes when the Titans needed 16 runs in the last over off Prasidh Krishna. The unbeaten fourth-wicket stand between Pandya and Miller fetched 106 runs in 61 balls. Earlier, it was Samson who led the initial charge, with Buttler finishing it strongly. Things could have gone worse for GT had their spin duo of Rashid Khan and Sai Kishore not done an excellent job of putting the brakes in the middle overs, when 43 runs came off seven overs after the Powerplay.

RR skipper Samson seemed to be in a mood to send across a message to the selectors after being ignored for the national side. For a change, Samson put the Orange Cap holder Buttler in the background, making his intentions clear by hitting an elegant six off the first ball he faced off Yash Dayal and followed it up with a four through the covers. But things slowed down once the two spinners started operating in tandem after RR had raced to 55/1 in the Powerplay.

Rashid was particularly impressive, giving away just 15 runs off his four overs and perhaps unlucky to go wicket-less in spite of beating the bat often. The RR skipper fell three runs short of a much-deserved half-century. Buttler who was lucky to survive on 43 and 69, hit Joseph for three boundaries, and got his first six in the penultimate over by lifting Shami over the long-on boundary.