Titans hold their nerve to ward off Russell onslaught


The KKR all-rounder’s four for five and a belligerent 48 go in vain after Hardik guides GT to 156

The KKR all-rounder’s four for five and a belligerent 48 go in vain after Hardik guides GT to 156

Gujarat Titans weathered an Andre Russell onslaught (48, 25b, 1×4, 6×6) and eked out a thrilling eight-run win against Kolkata Knight Riders in an Indian Premier League (IPL) match here at the D.Y. Patil Stadium on Saturday.

With 18 runs to win off the last over, Russell launched a full toss from Alzarri Joseph over long-on before top-edging a short one next ball to fine-leg. Russell was caught in the same area off a no-ball by Yash Dayal earlier when he was on four.

Chasing 157, Knight Riders were jolted early. Mohammed Shami bounced Sam Billings out in the first over before he got Sunil Narine caught in the next. At the PowerPlay, the Titans pace quartet had reduced KKR to 34 for three, with Nitish Rana edging to the wicketkeeper off Lockie Ferguson.

Skipper Shreyas Iyer, who collected a four and a six by making room outside off, poked at a good-length ball in the channel into Wriddhiman Saha’s gloves in the seventh over. Rinku Singh and Venkatesh Iyer then got into the act, stitching a 45-run stand before both fell trying to up the ante with the required rate closing in on 10.

Earlier, Hardik Pandya became the first captain to opt to bat in the season after 34 matches and the decision almost backfired.

Knight Riders’ accuracy and discipline in the death overs eclipsed Hardik’s 67 (49b, 4×4, 2×6), as Titans crashed and burned just when they looked poised to take off.

Russell’s first over, the last of the innings, yielded four wickets for five runs, as the ball travelled into the magnetic hands of Rinku Singh in the deep on three occasions.

The Titans innings went into a tailspin in the 17th over when Shivam Mavi’s slow and short-ball ploy got the better of David Miller. Tim Southee responded from the other end, dismissing Hardik and Rashid Khan in one over with both perishing to the pull shot.

Hardik and Miller had set the launchpad for the death overs with a 50-run stand in 35 balls for the third wicket. Soaking in the pressure of Shubman Gill’s dismissal in the second over, Hardik, who was returning from a groin injury, started off with two fours through the off-side. He got on top of the bounce to cut square and behind the wicket and aced the ramp shot over third man for a six when the runs dried up.

The only reminder of his injury came at the end of the 17th over, when the team physio was out to check on him and, two balls later he was gone but not without making a difference.

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