AHMEDABAD, India (AP) — Gujarat Titans won the Indian Premier League at its first attempt with allrounder Hardik Pandya leading his team to an emphatic seven-wicket victory over Rajasthan Royals in Sunday's final.
Pandya took 3-17 with impeccable medium-fast bowling to restrict Rajasthan to 130-9 after Sanju Samson won the toss and chose to bat.
Pandya then made a crucial 34 off 30 balls as Gujarat reached 133-3 in 18.1 overs in front of a raucous crowd of more than 100,000 at the Narendra Modi Stadium.
Opening batter Shubman Gill top-scored with an unbeaten 45 and sealed the memorable victory with a six off Obed McCoy over deep square leg.
“This title is going to be a special one because we talked about creating a legacy, and the coming generations will talk about it,” said Pandya, who won four IPL titles with Mumbai Indians but switched franchises this year and was appointed Gujarat captain.
“This is the right example for every team in the world that if you can play as a team, you can do wonders."
Pandya’s superb bowling in the middle overs was well supported by Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan (1-18) and derailed Rajasthan’s bid for a second IPL title since winning the inaugural edition in 2008.
Jos Buttler made only 39 off 35 balls but still finished as the tournament’s top scorer with 863 runs, and Samson scored 14. Both were dismissed by Pandya.
Samson tried to accelerate the scoring rate but was caught at third man off Pandya’s second ball. Buttler, who scored four centuries and four half centuries during this IPL season, got a faint edge as he tried to guide a short ball to third man.
The Gujarat skipper then made sure Rajasthan was without power-hitters in the death overs, taking a return catch to dismiss Shimron Hetmyer (11) with the last ball of his four-over spell.
Trent Boult (1-14) and this season’s top wicket-taker, Yuzvendra Chahal (1-20), bowled well for Rajasthan but Pandya carefully negotiated the middle overs by combining in a 63-run stand with Gill for the third wicket.
“Batting comes first to me, it’s been always close to my heart,” player-of-the-match Pandya said after hitting three boundaries and a six in his innings batting at No. 4. “When the (IPL) auction finished, I knew I would have to bat at No. 4.”
Chahal ended up with 27 wickets in the tournament when Pandya was caught in the slips in the 14th over. But Gujarat’s depth in the middle-order batting — the team topped the table with 20 points from 10 wins during the league stage — saw it home. David Miller (32 not out) and Gill comfortably took the tournament newcomer to the winning target.
Rajasthan's Samson saw some positives despite the defeat.
“This season is really special for us, we have been able to play good cricket and gave fans some happy moments," Samson said, while adding his team had an off-day in the final.
“All the youngsters and seniors played well as a team, I am proud of my team. We believe quality bowlers win you the tournament, so we invested in them ... but there is a lot to learn."
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