Shimron Hetmyer unleashed his full fury on Gujarat Titans (GT) as Rajasthan Royals (RR) defeated the reigning champions by three wickets with four balls remaining in an IPL 2023 match in Ahmedabad on Sunday (April 16).
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With the win, the Royals have broken the jinx of not having previously beaten the Hardik Pandya-led side in three outings in IPL and topped the table with eight points.
The victory will be all the more sweet considering the 2008 IPL champions were reduced to 4 for 2 at one stage, losing Yashasvi Jaiswal (4) and Jos Buttler (0), and were able to manage just 26 runs in powerplay.
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The 26-year-old Hetmyer turned the complexion of the game, smashing an unbeaten 26-ball 56. The knock was studded with two fours and five maximums, and came at a time when things looked uphill for the Sanju Samson-led side.
Samson blazed away to 60 off 32 balls.
Pacers Mohammed Shami and Hardik Pandya had bowled well as Gujarat Titans made early inroads and pushed the Royals into a tight corner.
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With 177 not looking like an imposing total to defend by any yardstick — against a team packed with batting stars like Buttler, Jaiswal, Samson and Devdutt Padikkal — the best option for Shami and Pandya was to make the ball talk.
Long after Shubman Gill (45) and Pandya (28) had come together to pull the Titans out of trouble with their 59-run partnership, the skipper bowled tirelessly in tandem with Mohammed Shami, whose searing pace and swing flummoxed the RR top-order batters.
Pandya induced Jaiswal to play an absurd short with the batter opening the face of the bat to a delivery outside the off stump to give Gill catching practice in slips.
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With pressure mounting in powerplay — and with the high standards the Royals have set in those make-or-break six overs — Buttler committed himself tentatively to a stroke he would otherwise not play.
The England while-ball skipper shuffled across his stumps to a delivery seaming in toward off stump and missed an attempted scoop over fine leg, resulting in his off stump being uprooted from the ground.
It left the pair of Padikkal and Samson with the unenviable task of rebuilding the house from scratch. The 26 runs the Royals scored in powerplay was a testament to the nagging length Pandya and Shami bowled.
But then the rebuilding work stated in true earnest, with Samson and Padikkal (26) involved in a 43-run partnership and then the skipper forging a 59-run stand with Riyan Parag (5). The Hetmyer and Dhruv Jurel partnership then blossomed towards the business end with the West Indian doing the bulk of the scoring.
There were some anxious moments when both Jurel and Ashwin fell in quick succession, but Hetmyer completed the task with another massive six.
At the end of Match 2️⃣3️⃣ of #TATAIPL 2023, here’s how the Points Table stands! 🙌
Which position is your favourite team on currently? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/XwG4tfReLT
— IndianPremierLeague (@IPL) April 16, 2023
Earlier, Gill’s cool demeanour in the face of adversity and skipper Hardik Pandya’s quick understanding of the situation again came to the fore as their half-century stand helped Gujarat Titans post 177 for seven.
South African left-handed batter David Miller (46 off 30 balls) and Abhinav Manohar (27 off 13) provided the final flourish, with a 45-run partnership that was studded with three boundaries and five maximums.
Gill (45) and Pandya (28) came together at a time when the powerplay score seemed far from ideal. And, with two players back in the dugout, the defending champions seemed vulnerable. The 59-run partnership, not just infused life into the match, it also helped the defending champions launch a full-scale onslaught in the death overs.
With 42 for 2 at the end of powerplay and Wriddhiman Saha (4) and young Sai Sudarshan (20) going cheaply, it was left to the captain and one of his most trusted team-mates to turn things around for the Titans.
Initially, Gill played the waiting game, getting off the mark off the last ball of the third over, by smashing an effortless boundary through extra cover off a length delivery from New Zealand pace bowler Trent Boult.
Pandya and Gill picked the seventh and eighth overs, bowled by Adam Zampa and Ravichandran Ashwin, for some special treatment, with the Titans skipper spanking a six and a four off the Australian in the seventh, and the pair milking 17 off the eight over bowled by Ashwin.
(With agency inputs)