Noor Ahmed and Joshua Little were impressive in taking two wickets in middle overs while Vijay Shankar stepped up at the right time to overcome a scare in middle overs and smash a blazing 51 off just 24 balls to lead Gujarat Titans to top of the IPL 2023 points table with a seven-wicket victory over Kolkata Knight Riders at Eden Gardens on Saturday.
Post the play starting after 45 minutes of rain delay, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, coming in for an injured Jason Roy, slammed a scintillating 39-ball 81, laced with five fours and seven sixes. But apart from Andre Russell, the birthday boy, smashing a 19-ball 34, with two fours and three sixes, no other batter stepped up as Kolkata made 179/7.
In reply, at 98/3 in 12 overs, after Shubman Gill fell for 49, chasing 180 seemed far-fetched for Gujarat. But for a team that has carved a reputation for acing chases, Shankar started the turnaround by slamming two fours and five sixes while sharing a decisive match-winning partnership of 87 runs in just 6.3 overs with David Miller, who was unbeaten on 32, to win with 13 balls to spare.
With the required run-rate around 12, Miller began by cutting Varun Chakaravarthy through extra cover for four and followed it by smacking Suyash Sharma for clean sixes over long-off and long-on. Shankar then cut Suyash through point as 18 runs came off the 15th over.
Miller got a life at 26 when Suyash dropped his catch at third man off Russell and Shankar added more salt to te wound by hoicking a six over deep mid-wicket. Shankar came into his own when he pummelled Chakaravarthy for three fantastic sixes off two slog-sweep and a mighty pull to take 24 runs off the 17th over.
Shankar swept Nitish Rana through square-leg for four and brought up his fifty in 24 balls with a powerful six swept over deep backward square-leg before a wide helped them complete the chase with 13 balls to spare.
Chasing 180, Shubman Gill was timing the ball so exquisitely while dealing in fours that kept the crowd quiet. When Andre Russell offered width, he stood tall to slap through extra cover and then followed it up with a smack over the bowler's head.
His drive through the gap at cover off Harshit Rana was elegant, and so was the cut-past point and cover-point in the third over. After Wriddhiman Saha fell after toe-ending a drag to mid-wicket, Gill swept Chakaravarthy and pulled off Suyash to collect two fours.
Though the spinners kept things tight, Hardik Pandya thumped Suyash down the ground for four and launched Sunil Narine over deep mid-wicket for six. The crowd found their voice back when Harshit got some inward movement to trap Hardik plumb lbw and Gill toe-ended a loft to long-on off Narine in successive overs. But Shankar and Miller opened up at the right time to ace another chase for Gujarat.
Earlier, N Jagadeesan gave Kolkata a fast start with his 15-ball 19. Apart from two nice cuts through backward point off Shami and Hardik, Jagadeesan had luck on his side by getting fours twice off thick outside edges.
Jagadeesan departed in the third over when he tried to walk across and played a flick off Shami, but was trapped lbw. Kolkata's move to promote Shardul Thakur to No.3 backfired when he fell for a four-back duck, as mid-on ran backwards and took a sensational catch over his shoulder.
Gurbaz ensured Kolkata weren't missing Roy's explosive batting, using his supple wrists and shuffling well to time a brace of sixes against Hardik, before smashing a four and six off Shami, followed by slogging a six and four off Rashid.
He then used Little's pace to glide in the gap between backward point and short third man for four, followed by lofting Rashid over extra cover for the same result to reach a fifty off just 27 balls.
But Gujarat bounced back in the 11th over, as Little trapped Venkatesh Iyer lbw, followed by having Nitish cut straight to the backward point. Gurbaz continued to be positive in his stroke play, clearing long-off and long-on easily for a six each off Noor and Hardik.
Gurbaz smacked Rashid down the ground for another maximum, followed by whipping him through deep mid-wicket for four more. But his blitzkrieg came to an end in the 16th over after holing out to deep mid-wicket off a full toss from Noor.
Though Rinku Singh holed out to long-on off Noor, Russell smacked Rashid for two leg-side sixes. He then thumped Noor for a powerful drive down the ground for four. After David Wiese dispatched Little over long-on for six, Russell hammered Shami over long-on for six and got a top-edge on slog for four, before slicing to deep point on the last ball of the innings.
Kolkata Knight Riders 179/7 in 20 overs (Rahmanullah Gurbaz 81, Andre Russell 34; Mohammed Shami 3-33, Noor Ahmad 2-21) lost to Gujarat Titans 180/3 in 17.5 overs (Vijay Shankar 51 not out, Shubman Gill 49; Sunil Narine 1-24, Harshit Rana 1-25) by 7 wickets