David Miller and captain Hardik Pandya ‘s clinical finishing guided debutant Gujarat Titans to a seven-wicket win over Rajasthan Royals in the Qualifier 1 at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Tuesday, and earned the side a berth in the final of the Indian Premier League.
Chasing 189, Titans got over the line with three balls to spare as Miller and Hardik forged an unbeaten 106-run partnership.
Royals will play the winner of the Eliminator in the second Qualifier in Ahmedabad on Friday.
Facing a stiff target, Titans batted better in the PowerPlay to gather 64 runs. After Wriddhiman Saha’s dismissal in the first over, Matthew Wade and Shubman Gill put on a 72-run stand in 44 deliveries.
The left-right combination placed the ball nicely to put pressure on the Royals. It ended unexpectedly when the impressive Gill, who hit Ashwin for three successive fours in his 21-ball 35, was run out in the eighth over.
Two overs later, Wade (35 off 30) pulled Obed McCoy to deep midwicket.
Hardik (40 not out off 27) kept his cool and played the ball on merit to get boundaries behind and in front of the wicket. He complemented the hard-hitting Miller (68 not out off 38, 3×4, 5×6), who clobbered three successive sixes off Prasidh Krishna in the final over.
Earlier, Jos Buttler got back his touch to score a 56-ball 89.
As an afternoon shower and dark evening skies relented for a packed house at Eden Gardens to enjoy the first IPL match after three years, Buttler’s fireworks, containing 12 fours and two sixes, provided thorough entertainment.
Royals had an excellent start as captain Sanju Samson, who came in after the fall of opener Yashshwi Jaiswal in the second over, flexed his muscles right from the start.
Buttler, who began well cover-driving Mohammed Shami for two fours in the first over, dropped the anchor to enjoy Samson’s effortless stroke-play. The two laid a solid foundation with a 47-ball 68-run partnership.
Samson was a treat to watch in his 26-ball knock of 47, comprising five fours and three sixes. It included two stunning ones on the onside off Alzarri Joseph, who replaced Lockie Ferguson. He miscued an inside-out shot off Sai Kishore to be caught at long-on in the 10th over.
Devdutt Paddikal (28) and Buttler got 37 runs before the latter switched gears to hammer Titans’ bowlers, barring the difficult-to-read Rashid Khan. The Englishman, dropped on 69, was run out in the final over but helped Royals collect 64 runs in the last five.