Hardik Pandya led debutant Gujarat Titans (GT) to their maiden Indian Premier League (IPL 2022) triumph. Pandya’s superlative show with the ball and bat, and calm, astute leadership, were central to the powerful performance of the first-timers this season as they beat Rajasthan Royals (RR) by seven wickets in front of a home crowd in Ahmedabad that exceeded 104,000.
Hardik followed his 4-0-17-3 with a 30-ball 34 to bring the Gujarat innings back on track when they had fallen behind in the chase of 131. He and Shubman Gill (45* in 43 balls) added 63 in 53 balls for the third wicket after they were 23/2 in the fifth over. The chase gained impetus with the arrival of David Miller (32* in 19) before Gill, who played the anchor, finished with the match with a six.
Gujarat became the second team to win an IPL in their maiden season, after the Shane Warne-led Rajasthan in the inaugural edition, in 2008. They had topped the league stages with 20 points (10 wins) and ended up winning 12 matches out of their 16 outings.
Jos Buttler (39 in 35 balls) top-scored yet again for the Royals, but could not see them through. With 863 runs at 57.5, striking at 149, Buttler will take home the Orange Cap, and his tally is the second-most in a single edition after Virat Kohli in 2016. He was also the MVP of the season.
Though it is Hardik’s first IPL trophy as a captain, he has won four more (2015, 2017, 2019 and 2020) as a player with Mumbai Indians. Meanwhile, Rashid Khan, one of the greatest T20 cricketers, laid his hand on IPL silverware for the first time.
With 487 runs and eight wickets, Hardik finished the fourth-highest run-getter in the tournament and the second on the list of MVPs.
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Rajasthan Royals 130/9 in 20 overs
The most exciting parts of the toss were Ravi Shastri’s booming voice and Sanju Samson's second consecutive success. He took a rare call by electing to bat, but Pandya announced he would have fielded anyway. Rajasthan probably backed historic numbers more than the trend: until 2021, nine out of the 14 IPL finals were won by teams batting first.
Contrasting to their approach against Mohammed Siraj on Friday, Rajasthan were off to a conservative start, getting just seven off the first two overs before Yashasvi Jaiswal (22 in 16 balls) flexed his arms. He fell to Yash Dayal at the end of the fourth over, with 31 on the board.
Realising Buttler and Samson’s poor numbers against Rashid, Pandya quickly introduced his deputy in the Powerplay. A misfield cost a boundary off the first ball, but with just seven off it, Rajasthan were 44/1 after six overs. The Powerplay also saw Lockie Ferguson bowl a yorker at 157.3 kph, the fastest delivery of the tournament, surpassing Umran Malik.
Just when Buttler and Samson (14 off 11) were beginning to look threatening, Pandya brought on himself and dismissed his opposite number. Brilliant with his length, Pandya troubled Devdutt Padikkal (2 in 10 balls) before the latter perished to Rashid. The phase between Samson and Padikkal’s wicket cost the Royals 22 balls, and only 19 came off it. Two balls later, Hardik turned the innings around. The back-of-the-length ball found Buttler’s outside edge before entering Wriddhiman Saha’s gloves.
Shimron Hetmyer threatened to ruin Pandya’s incredible figures with back-to-back fours, but Pandya struck again with a back-of-the-length slow cutter to catch Hetmyer off his own bowling. Rajasthan managed 36 runs in the final five overs, losing four wickets. Gujarat used R. Sai Kishore (2-0-20-2) as a death bowler, and he returned with the key wickets of R. Ashwin (6 in 9 balls) and Trent Boult (11 in 7). Mohammed Shami finished the innings with a brilliant final over, giving away seven and castling Riyan Parag (15 in 15) with an angled-in yorker.
Gujarat Titans 133/3 in 18.1 overs
The Rajasthan bowlers began on an exceptional note. Chahal dropped a simple catch of Gill off the fourth ball of the innings, from Boult. Prasidh Krishna (4-0-40-1) struck early by flattening Saha’s (5 off 7) stumps with a seaming-in ripper. Boult followed that with a maiden over before getting Matthew Wade (8 in 10) in his third over, the fifth of the innings. Parag held the catch, taking his tournament tally to 17.
Taking a leaf out of Gujarat’s book, Samson introduced leg-spinner Chahal (4-0-20-1) inside the Powerplay, which cost seven runs. Gujarat were 31/2 after Powerplay. Chahal deceived Gill in flight in the eighth over, but Hetmyer missed a difficult chance. Rajasthan’s disciplined bowling forced Gill and Pandya to play the waiting game. Rajasthan themselves waited for the left-handers to arrive, and delayed Ashwin’s entry.
When Ashwin finally came on to bowl in the 12th over, Gill and Hardik plundered 15 off Ashwin’s first over, bringing the equation to 54 in eight overs.
With Gujarat comfortably racing away with the game, Samson was forced to finish up Boult and Chahal’s quota inside 14 overs. The latter produced a classic leg-spinner’s dismissal, beating Pandya with the length and turn to find the outside edge. The ball carried to Jaiswal in the first slip. Hardik was visibly livid while walking back, upset with Gill, who had refused a third run off the previous ball. The wicket also ensured the Purple Cap for Chahal.
Already having an excellent season, Miller ensured there were no hiccups in the chase as he too targeted Ashwin (3-0-32-0) as Gujarat finished the hunt off the first ball of the penultimate over.
Rajasthan Royals 130/9 in 20 overs (Jos Buttler 39; Hardik Pandya 3-17) lost to Gujarat Titans 133/3 in 18.1 overs (Shubman Gill 45*; Trent Boult 1-14) by seven wickets with 11 balls to spare. Player of the Match: Hardik Pandya.
Gujarat Titans won IPL 2022. MVP: Jos Buttler