IPL 2023's season-opener between Gujarat Titans and Chennai Super Kings went down to the last over but barring a few scares, Hardik Pandya's defending champions have very clearly announced their intentions for the 16th season of the T20 tournament.
After putting Chennai into bat first, Gujarat's bowlers saw opener Ruturaj Gaikwad smash 92 off 50 deliveries before Alzarri Joseph ended his stint in the 18th over. Chennai ended up making 178/7.
In reply, Gujarat’s chase was mostly anchored by Shubman Gill who made 63 and the team needed 41 runs from 30 balls by the time he got out in the 15th over. The score was 138/4.
Gujarat made 18 from the next 3 overs and then needed 23 runs from the last 12 balls. Rashid Khan then hit Chahar for 10 in 2 deliveries and got it down to 8 needed from 7 and then he and Rahul Tewatia got the team past the finish line.
CSK's Tushar Deshpande became the first Impact Player (substitute) in the IPL. He came in place of Ambati Rayudu. GT's Sai Sudharsan joined him as the second player to be picked as an Impact Player, coming in as a substitute for New Zealand batter Kane Williamson, who had suffered an injury while fielding in the first innings.
CSK's Rajvardhan Hangargekar had a dream IPL debut as he picked up three wickets for 36 runs in his four overs.
Playing at the Narendra Modi Stadium, the home ground of Gujarat Titans, as the tournament re-enters the home-and-away format, Chennai had a cautious start with just two runs coming off the first over. Then, Ruturaj Gaikwad hit Titans' skipper Hardik Pandya for two boundaries through midwicket to pace up the innings.
Shami came to attack in the third over and drew the first blood in the form of Devon Conway to claim his 100th IPL wicket. Conway aimed for a drive but missed it and got bowled as the ball clattered into the middle stump and Moeen Ali came to join Gaikwad.
Next over after Conway's dismissal, Gaikwad shifted gears and hit debutant Joshua Little for a back-to-back boundary and a maximum with Moeen also getting a four, taking 15 runs off the over.
The next over, after a dot and a single, Moeen hit a four. The pressure got to Shami as he sent down a no-ball and Moeen took full advantage of it, slicing it over the long-off boundary for a flat six off the free-hit. He then pulled it away through midwicket for four more.
In the sixth over, Pandya brought Rashid Khan into the attack. After a dot ball, the spinner almost got Moeen, who missed a sweep and Rashid appealed for LBW, which the former successfully reviewed as the ball pitched outside the leg stump. He then danced down the pitch and lofted it over Rashid's head for a boundary.
Rashid struck right back after the boundary to dismiss Moeen, who look to go over extra cover but edged it behind where Wriddhiman Saha clung onto the catch, reducing CSK 51/2 after the powerplay.
The next over Gaikwad hit Pandya for back-to-back maximums before Rashid claimed his second in the eighth over, removing Ben Stokes, who tried to punch it through cover but the ball skid sharply, taking a nick to the keeper giving another good catch to Saha.
The next over Gaikwad brought up his 11th IPL fifty with a magnificent six off the bowling of Joseph. He completed his half-century off just 23 balls with five maximums and three boundaries. Halfway through, Chennai was reeling at 93/3.
Gaikwad was on another level as he was mostly dealing with boundaries, showcasing his impressive skills. Ambati Rayudu joined the party, hitting a brilliant six over midwicket.
A couple of balls later, Gaikwad went for a six but Kane Williamson showcased an excellent effort at the midwicket boundary as he caught the ball and flicked it in the air before going over the ropes. But in the process, he hurt his right knee and was seemingly in a lot of pain.
After a single on the next ball, Little got his maiden IPL wicket in the 13th over, sending Rayudu (12) back, who look to swing down the ground but was beaten on the edge and the ball clattered into the stumps.
Titans' bowlers managed to put a leash on CSK's run rate with just 19 runs coming off the next three overs. That's where CSK lost momentum.
Joseph came into the attack in the 18th over and denied Gaikwad a century as he got him on a full toss. Gaikwad was looking to whack that away to the fence, but couldn't get much elevation and Shubman Gill at long-on was quick to take an impressive diving catch, bringing an end to Gaikwad's outstanding 92-run inning.
CSK lost another wicket in quick succession when Joseph trapped Ravindra Jadeja, who flicked the ball to deep midwicket for a maximum but Shankar took an easy one.
In the penultimate over of the inning, Shami created a chance to trap Shivam Dube, who went for a pull against this short ball but got a top edge toward fine leg, Saha sprinted back and dived in but the ball was out of his reach.
The next ball Dube hit Shami for a six and fell on the next delivery when he went for another hook but ended up getting a top edge and the ball went straight to Rashid at deep square leg.
In the final over of the inning, after a couple of singles, Dhoni showcased his vintage style as he dispatched the ball over deep square for a towering six leaving fans chanting Dhoni... Dhoni...Dhoni. He followed it up with a four. After a dot a ball, Dhoni finished it up with a single.
Chasing 179, Titans' had a similar start to that of CSK with just three runs off the first over. Then, Shubman Gill and Wriddhiman Saha hit Deshpande for a couple of fours and a six, taking 15 runs off the over.
Debutant Hangargekar did not have the start he expected as he overstepped and sent down a no-ball on the second ball of his IPL career. He followed that up with a wide. Saha Dispatched the short ball over mid-wicket with a pull for a four on a free hit.
Hangargekar was quick to bounce back as a couple of singles later he claimed his maiden IPL wicket in his first over and dismissed Saha, who got the thick edge of the bat and was caught at deep mid-wicket with Shivam Dube running to his right to complete a brilliant catch.
The next over, Gill shifted gears and punched it through cover for a boundary. After a single, Deshpande conceded a no-ball, and Gill dispatched it over deep mid-wicket for an authoritative six on the free hit. Gill then hit a couple of boundaries to Mitchell Santner in the sixth over to take the powerplay score to 65 for the loss of one wicket.
After taking singles and doubles in the seventh over, Gill went for two boundaries against Santner in the eighth over. The next over him and Sai Sudarshan crossed the 50-run partnership for the second wicket.
In the 10th over, Hargargekar struck again to trap Sudarshan for 22. The latter looked for the cut, but it was too wide for him. He found the under-edge that carried the ball behind to Dhoni. Then, skipper Hardik Pandya came to join Gill in the run-chase.
Halfway through the chase, the Titans were in a comfortable position with 93/2 on the board. Gill was in his classic style as he kept looking a big hit and he brought up his fifty off 30 balls.
In the 13th over, Jadeja struck and bowled Pandya cheaply for 8. The GT skipper went for a sweep but missed it completely.
The next over, Gill pulled through deep mid-wicket for a six to Deshpande. After being expensive, the latter got CSK the much-needed breakthrough, sending Gill back to the hut for 63. The GT opener opted for the big slap towards the deep-mid wicket where Gaikwad ran in to complete a catch.
With 34 needing off 24 for GT to win, Chahar gave away just four off the 17th over. Then, Hangargekar came back in attack in the 18th over. He started with a couple of dots followed by a single but conceded a massive six off the next ball by Vijay Shankar. But there was a twist in the tale as Titans reviewed the ball for a wide.
On the next ball, Hangargekar dismissed Shankar (27) to finish his four-over quota with three wickets.
With 18 needed off 9 balls to win, Rashid Khan went for a six to deep mid-wicket and followed that up with a boundary to bring GT back in the driving seat.
With 8 needed to win off the final over, Deshpande started with a wide and the next ball Rahul Tewatia dispatched the ball for a six over mid-off and sealed the deal with four on the next delivery.
(With inputs from PTI)
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