CSK top order goes down tamely, as Titans push visitors closer to the exit door

webnexttech | CSK top order goes down tamely, as Titans push visitors closer to the exit door

SYNOPSIS: Defending champions Chennai Super Kings’ play-offs hopes take a big hit as they go down to Gujarat Titans by 35 runs. Luck runs out At a venue where they pulled off a major heist to become champions last year, Chennai Super Kings’ hopes of defending their title suffered a huge blow. The defeat means they will now have to win both their remaining matches and depend on other results to go their way. That they have less than a 48-hour turnaround before they face Rajasthan Royals at home on Sunday afternoon, means the road ahead is all the more challenging. In all likelihood, given how short on confidence and thin on bowling, the fixture against Rajasthan could well be Dhoni’s last home fixture. For a team, whose starting XI has never looked settled owing to fitness, form and unavailability, Chennai’s mix and match continued at Ahmedabad as well with Rachin Ravindra making a comeback to the top. But as has been the case, this was yet another move that didn’t work as Rachin was run-out off the last ball of the first over and a ball later, Ajinkya Rahane too departed. Chasing 232 for a win, those twin blows strangled Chennai straight-away. And when Ruturaj Gaikwad fell for zero, at 10/3, Chennai’s chase was all but killed. However, through Daryl Mitchell and Moeen Ali, Chennai would attempt to make a comeback. As they showed in their partnership of 109 off 57 deliveries for the fourth wicket, had Chennai’s top-order given the necessary start, the target wasn’t as steep. On a flat deck with dew by their side, with wickets in hand, they could have been in with a chance. But, with the required rate climbing right through the chase, Mitchell and Moeen had no choice but to keep going for high-risk shots. From there on it was always about a couple of deliveries as in Rashid Khan and Noor Ahmed, Gujarat had the bowlers to tie down two next three incoming batsmen. And as Mohit Sharma came in and removed Mitchell off his second delivery, Gujarat inched closer and off his second over, he got rid of Moeen as Chennai’s fate was all but sealed. Style meets substance In an IPL season where openers have buried opposition attacks with sheer muscle power, Shubman Gill and B Sai Sudharsan showed there is an alternate universe where timing could be as brutal too. This was an evening where they showed, going forward, there is still space in T20s for batsmen of their ilk, who are classical in their own ways. From the time they walked in after being asked to bat first, they appeared liberated. Perhaps that they are barely alive in the tournament helped the duo to play more freely. But whatever it was, they put up a grand exhibition, matching each other shot for shot. And it was Sudharsan who first started it, getting down on his knee in the third over and cover-driving Shardul Thakur for a six. And just before the powerplay ended, Gill stood tall and lofted a good length delivery over mid-on for a six. Those two shots summed up their batting on the night as a whole. Four out of the five boundaries that Sudharsan scored came in the mid-wicket and mid-on region. But four of his seven sixes came behind square, as he arched back to upper cut one and brought the pull on three other occasions. Against spinners, he went over mid-wicket twice. Simple, clear game plan as he outscored Gill. In a season where few good things have gone their way for Gujarat, Sudharsan is top of it, crossing 500 runs en route becoming the fastest Indian to 1000 IPL runs. At the other end, Gill was more intent on proving a point or two. Having failed to make India’s World Cup 15 cut, the fluency that has been missing in Gill’s batting this IPL, was to the forefront. Those slices of either foot were back as he found three boundaries in his favoured mid-wicket region and two on the square of off-side. Those four sixes in the arc between long-off and long-on showed how he struck to his characteristics. Only one six that he scored off Daryl Mitchell fell in the improvisation category as he quickly caught up with Sudharsan before bringing up his century in 50 deliveries. The left-hander too would get to the landmark in the same over. In a seven-over period (9th to 15th) they scored a whopping 111 runs, which left Chennai shell shocked. Ruturaj Gaikwad’s continued hesitation to trust the spinners helped a little as Chennai ran out of answers. Eventually, in the last four overs, Chennai would pull things back, conceding only 35 runs and picking three wickets as Gujarat, who looked set to cross 250 ended up with 231

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