South African batsman David Miller smashed an unbeaten 68 to lead newcomers Gujarat Titans into the Indian Premier league final with a seven-wicket win over Rajasthan Royals yesterday.
Chasing 189 for victory in the first qualifier, Gujarat rode an unbeaten 106-run fourth-wicket stand between skipper Hardik Pandya (40) and Miller to achieve the target with three balls to spare in Kolkata.
With 16 needed off the final over, the left-handed Miller smashed each of Prasidh Krishna’s first three balls for six to bring the house down at a full capacity Eden Gardens in the first qualifier.
His unbeaten 68 came from 38 balls and included three fours and five sixes.
“If it’s in the V, it’s in the tree. If it is in the arc, it’s out of the park,” Miller said being named Man of the Match.
“Opportunity, firstly. I have been given a good role and given an extended run. Have good backing from the outside. For my personal game, I am enjoying my role. I have played long time but I am understanding my game better. I am trying to keep everything closer to my gameplan.
“There’s been a lot of people going wide outside off stump, so I decided to step that side. I knew they had a certain plan.
“(The) joy of IPL is you play for different teams. (In) franchise cricket you get to meet players, I knew few people already moving into the team. There were a few butterflies, but after our first close win, everything aligned and we started making a nice habit.
“You got to control what you can. Can’t think too much ahead and what will happen. You need to concentrate on your breathing, and if it’s in your area you have to do it. It’s the last over, so you know no more balls left,” Miller added.
Afghanistan spin wizard Rashid Khan set up the win with figures of 0-15 that kept Rajasthan to 188-6 despite Jos Buttler’s 56-ball 89.
Gujarat, one of two new teams alongside Lucknow Super Giants in the expanded 10-team IPL, now await their opponent for the title clash on Sunday in their home ground Ahmedabad.
The second qualifier on Friday will decide the other finalist. Pandya said: “Right now, I don’t have much feelings. Trying to be neutral. Only thing I was very proud of is that all 23 players are different personalities. They bring different things on the table. I just told Miller that if you have good people around you, you get good things. For our team, the genuine humans we have has allowed us to do well. I genuinely see that the boys outside the XI want the players to do well.”
Rajasthan, who ended second in the table topped by Gujarat, have another shot of making the finals when they meet the winner of today’s eliminator between Lucknow and Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Gujarat lost Wriddhiman Saha for nought off New Zealand quick bowler Trent Boult on the second ball of the chase with the crowd silenced by the departure of their local hero.
Shubman Gill (35) and Matthew Wade (35) then took charge to take the attack to the opposition bowlers as Gujarat reached 64-1 in six overs of the powerplay when only two fielders are allowed outside the inner circle.
The right-left batting pair of Gill put on 71 before a mix-up between the two saw Gill comfortably run out.
The Australian soon followed, slapping Obed McCoy to deep mid-wicket where Buttler made no mistake.
Pandya stood firm and found able company in Miller, who reached his twelfth half-century of the IPL, as the two put the chase back on track.
Earlier Rajasthan started cautiously before Sanju Samson made 47 off 26 balls, adding 68 with Buttler.
Samson hit five fours and three sixes before falling to left-arm spinner Sai Kishore in his attempt to get another hit over the fence only to get caught at long-off.
Rashid Khan kept a lid on the opposition scoring with his leg-spin as he choked the opposition of runs during his four overs. Buttler, who leads the tournament batting chart with 718 runs including three centuries, never quite hit his best form as he hit 12 fours and two sixes in his 89.
Rajasthan Royals 188/6 (Jos Buttler 89, Sanju Samson 47, Devdutt Padikkal 28; Hardik Pandya 1 for 14)) lost to Gujarat Titans 191/3 (David Miller 68*, Hardik Pandya 40*, Shubman Gill 35; Trent Boult 1 for 38) by 7 wickets (with 3 balls remaining)
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