Navi Mumbai: Shikhar Dhawan struck a fine half-century as error-prone Punjab Kings finally produced a clinical performance to beat Gujarat Titans by eight wickets and end the IPL table leaders’ five-match winning streak here on Tuesday.
Pacer Kagiso Rabada snared four wickets as Punjab Kings restricted formidable Gujarat Titans to a below-par 143 for eight after Hardik Pandya opted to bat first. Punjab, who made a mess of what should have been a straightforward chase in their last game, learned from their mistakes to pace the innings much better and overcome the target in 16 overs.
Dhawan (62 not out off 53 balls) scored his third half-century of the season and got good support from Sri Lankan Bhanuka Rajapaksa (40 off 28), who entertained with five fours and a six. As one of the senior batters in the team, Dhawan took the responsibility of finishing the game for his team and he did that with elan. Skipper Mayank Agarwal dropped himself down the order to accommodate Jonny Bairstow (1) at the top of the order but the move did not work.
However, the 87-run stand between the left-handers, Dhawan and Rajapaksa, ensured Punjab got home comfortably. Liam Livingstone (30 not out off 10) displayed some brutal hitting towards the end of the chase and smashed premier India pacer Mohammad Shami for four sixes including a monstrous 117m hit over deep square leg.
The 16th over going for 30 runs also gave a big boost to PBKS’ net run rate. It was a much-needed win for Punjab, who have struggled for consistency this season with five wins and as many losses. For Gujarat, who are set to make the play-offs, it was a timely wake-up call to fix their batting issues, especially at the top of the order. They have had somebody or the other to bail them out of tough situations but it was not the case on Tuesday.
Earlier, Sai Sudharsan’s unbeaten 65 off 50 balls was the saving grace in Gujarat’s innings as Punjab bowlers conceded only 11 fours and two sixes. Sudarsan managed to hit five boundaries and a six but ran out of partners as Gujarat skipper Hardik Pandya’s decision to elect to bat backfired.
They lost openers Shubman Gill (9) and Wriddhiman Saha (21) cheaply. Gill, who had struck two boundaries, was dismissed courtesy a direct hit from Rishi Dhawan from cover, in the third over. In the next over Saha, who started aggressively, gave a sitter to rival captain Mayank Agawral at mid-off, giving Rabada (4/33) his first wicket. Saha, who had hit three boundaries and a six, was undone by the extra bounce, as he tried to play a lofted shot, but mistimed it and paid the price. Gujarat further slipped to 44/3 as pacer Rishi Dhawan (1/26) removed Hardik (1) early. Hardik tried to drive an outside the off length ball, but ended it nicking to wicket-keeper Jitesh Sharma leaving his team in all sorts of trouble.
Then Sudharsan and David Miller (11) tried to rally the innings but managed to add only 23 runs in 30 balls. It became 67/4 after Liam Livingstone (1/15) dismissed Miller, who miscued a lofted drive to be caught by Rabada at long-off. Sudharshan tried to change gears from the 11th over, when he pulled Livingstone for his first boundary, but was unable to free his arms frequently. Rabada further pegged back Gujarat by removing Rahul Tewatia (11) and Rashid Khan (0) in successive deliveries in the 17th over, with GT reeling at 112/6.
Rabada capped off a memorable spell by dismissing Lockie Ferguson (5). For Punjab, Sandeep Sharma (0/17), Arshdeep Singh (1/35), Rahul Chahar (0/11) and Livingstone also played their parts to perfection.
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