Before they met for the first time in IPL 2023, Gujarat Titans and Rajasthan Royals had played each other three times. Each time, Hardik Pandya’s team won, including in the first qualifier and the final. Skipper Pandya and David Miller were important parts of all three wins, and they were again in the game against Ahmedabad on Sunday, April 16.
The Titans scored 177/7, which is a good score. Miller scored 46 runs, and the rest of the players also did good things. They went after the spinners for the Royals. R Ashwin, Yuzvendra Chahal, and Adam Zampa all gave up more than 30 runs in their allotted overs, and Trent Boult also cost them a lot. Then, in the first half of the chase, the Titans did a great job with the ball. In the 11th over, the Royals were down to 55/4 after Mohammed Shami, Hardik Pandya, and Rashid Khan all made important breaks.
But the Royals did a great job of coming back. Captain Sanju Samson’s 60 off 32 balls brought the chase back to life, and Shimron Hetmyer’s perfect 56 off 26 balls finished it off with four balls to spare. Samson and Hetmyer hit 11 sixes between them, and 10 of them came in the second half of the chase. This helped the Royals win their first game against the Titans.
“It was an important victory. In terms of the past between us and the Titans, they are ahead of us. Every game where we come from behind, take some pressure, play deep into the game, and win is very enjoyable. “There are some good vibes in the locker room, and it feels good to have won,” Boult said in the press meeting after the game.
Boult noticed that the Titans’ pacers hit the right lengths and made it hard for the RR hitters, but they kept going and hit back, not giving up in the face of the pressure. “It’s hard to pick out a specific time in the game, but that’s how T20 cricket works. You’re never out of the game, and you just have to believe you can win from anywhere. Every team, and ours in particular, has a lot of meetings where they talk about strategies, so it was nice to get out there and try some of those things.
“Since they chose to bowl 12 overs of spin, I thought they did a great job of bringing it back. Every over counts, but Sandy [Sandeep Sharma] did a great job of ending that run. 175 , pretty good pitch, they bowled very well on it and showed us how to bowl with the lengths and good swing. Again, we just took it in and put ourselves in a place where we could set a few limits and have it come back to us.
“We have some very good hitters on our team, and I think the best thing is seeing different people step up at different times. Jos [Buttler] is a very important player for us, and I’m sure he’ll be upset that he won’t get any runs tonight. But the rest of the batting order is eager to help, and different players have stepped up at different times,” Boult said.
Afghanistan’s Noor Ahmad, who was brought in as a “impact player,” got off to a slow start, but in the 15th over, he got rid of the important wicket of Samson, leaving the Royals at 114/5. In the last five overs, they needed 64 runs to win. Hetmyer let loose, and with help from Dhruv Jurel and R Ashwin, the Royals won with a six off Ahmad in the last over.
In the 17th over, Ahmad only gave away eight runs, but Alzarri Joseph, Shami, and Rashid gave away 49 runs between them in the last three overs. Vikram Solanki, who is in charge of cricket for the Titans, defended the choice of bowlers at the end of the game. He also supported Ahmad, who got 1–29 in 2.2 overs on his debut.
“If you think about how Mohammed Shami bowled in his first spell, I think Mohit Sharma could have been used in the last four overs. With seven runs to protect in the last over, it was important to try to get a wicket. Noor broke up that pair for us, and when Samson was out, we were able to get back into the game. I thought he did a great job. At that point, I guess it’s a line call to see if he can try to take a wicket.
“I just think Noor had a great first game. To take that important wicket while under pressure and do what he did was amazing. It says a lot about who he is. “The fact that Hardik had enough faith in him to bowl him when things were going badly shows how confident he is,” Solanki said.
It was the Titans’ second loss at home this season, after they lost to the Kolkata Knight Riders the first time. Solanki was upset by the loss, but he promised that the team would make its people proud.
“There’s a chance of winning and losing in games, but we’re thankful for the fans who come out to cheer us on. I think we’ve given them something to cheer for in the past, and we’ll keep working hard to make sure they can be proud of their team. We work very hard. Yes, it’s a loss, and yes, we’re unhappy that we didn’t win today. “We will look at every part of this game, just like we did after our wins and after our losses,” Solanki said.