Punjab Kings 145 for 2 (Dhawan 62*, Rajapaksa 40, Livingstone 30*) beat Gujarat Titans 143 for 8 (Sudharsan 65*, Rabada 4-33) by eight wickets
The early strangle
Shubman Gill’s poor recent form and the lack of a stable batter at No. 3 had been troubling Titans, and their issues were compounded on Tuesday. Wridhhiman Saha swung for the hills down the ground for a stroke-filled 21 off 17 but he and Gill fell in consecutive overs. Gill was the first to go when he tried to steal a single that didn’t exist and fell well short after almost colliding into the bowler Sandeep, and Rishi Dhawan got a direct hit from the covers. Saha hit the next ball for a one-bounce four and hit a six next over, but he charged after one too many when he miscued Rabada to mid-off in the fourth over.
Eight overs without a boundary
The Kings bowlers not only struck regularly, but they also dried up the boundaries. Sandeep stuck to the length and short-of-good length areas just outside off with a hint of swing and the others, too, bowled to their fields so well that the Titans batters couldn’t score a boundary for 48 balls. Hardik crawled to one off six balls before edging one behind after the powerplay ended when he tried to drive Rishi, and Titans were 44 for 3.
Rahul Chahar then hurt his bowling hand in his first over while collecting a throw from the deep and he walked off immediately. Livingstone completed the over and then got one more, also because he could bowl offbreaks to two left-hand batters with the longer boundary on the leg side. He barely offered any room, and when David Miller tried to end the boundary-less streak, he found long-off for 11 and Titans were 67 for 4.
Sudharsan’s maiden fifty lifts Titans
It was almost as if 20-year-old Sudharsan had flicked a switch on for boundaries once Miller fell. He pounced on the short balls and collected fours in consecutive overs off Rishi, Livingstone and the returning Chahar, and then one down the ground off Arshdeep Singh to race to 45.
Even though Rabada choked the lower order with back-to-back wickets of Rahul Tewatia and Rashid Khan in the 17th over, Sudharsan pulled Arshdeep for six to bring up his fifty and lead Titans to a respectable 143 for 8.
Dhawan, Rajapaksa go bang-bang
Chasing a below-par total on a pitch that was two-paced and had good bounce for the quicks, Kings promoted Jonny Bairstow to open to pull him out of his rut, but the move didn’t work. After swinging and pulling four times in his six-ball stay, Bairstow miscued Mohammed Shami’s short ball to deep backward square leg for 1.
Mayank Agarwal chose to drop himself down further and sent left-hand batter Bhanuka Rajapaksa at No. 3. Shikhar had already dispatched two wide balls for back-to-back fours against his Delhi team-mate Pradeep Sangwan and he found able support in Rajapaksa, who struck Shami for two fours when the fast bowler pitched it just slightly short in the third over.
Alzarri Joseph came on for Sangwan and got the same treatment. Shikhar ramped him for six and followed it with a tickle down the leg side for four more. He continued to target the off-side boundary and the big over came when Sangwan returned as soon as the powerplay ended. Rajapaksa heaved him for two fours in two balls before Shikhar unleashed another upper cut to make it a 15-run over and reduce the equation to a comfortable 86 off 78.
Dhawan, Livingstone give NRR boost
The situation was such that Kings could have cautiously seen through Rashid’s spell and still won. Shikhar was happy to rotate the strike until Lockie Ferguson returned for an eventful over. Shikhar brought up his 47th IPL fifty, and Rajapaksa was trapped lbw a ball after he tried to flick one, but the top edge went very fine for a six.
With 47 needed off 48, Kings sent in Livingstone, who was in his element. Kings needed 27 off 30 balls, and he needed just six balls for those runs; three sixes in a row included the biggest of this IPL and a top edge nearly over the keeper’s head, followed by a pull for four, a double to the leg side off a yorker, and a one-bounce four to third man which meant he was unbeaten on 30 off just ten balls.
Vishal Dikshit is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo