An inspirational all-round display from captain Hardik Pandya helped Gujarat Titans defeat Rajasthan Royals by seven wickets to claim their first Indian Premier League title.
The Titans were made to field first in Sunday’s final in Ahmedabad after losing the toss but were able to limit the Royals to 130-9 on the back of figures of 3-19 from skipper Pandya and some tight bowling from the rest of the unit.
He then put on a half-century stand with Shubman Gill to help the Titans recover from the loss of two early wickets to chase down the target with 11 balls to spare – with Gill sealing the win by clubbing a huge six.
"I wanted to show what I had worked hard for," Pandya, who also earned the player-of-the-match award, said of his bowling efforts. "Today was the day I saved the best for.
"I will take the trophy any day over striking at 160 [with the bat]. My team comes first for me."
Hardik’s superb bowling in the middle overs derailed Rajasthan’s bid for a second IPL title since winning the inaugural edition in 2008, with the Royals aiming to win this year’s tournament as a fitting tribute to the late Shane Warne, who captained them to victory 14 years ago.
Big-hitting England batsman Jos Buttler, the tournament’s leading run-scorer with 863 in total, looked like he was going to carry on where he had left off in the Royal’s last game where he hit his fourth century of the tournament to help them into the final.
However, Buttler would fall for 39 off 35 balls to become Hardik’s first victim and the seamer then claimed the wicket of Royals captain Sanju Samson for 14.
He then made sure Rajasthan was without power-hitters in the death overs when he had Shimron Hetmyer (11) caught off his own bowling off his last ball of a terrific four-over spell.
Trent Boult (1-14), and this season’s top wicket-taker Yuzvendra Chahal (1-20), bowled well for Rajasthan early on, but Pandya watchfully negotiated the middle overs by combining in a 63-run stand with Gill for the third wicket.
Spinner Chahal ended up with 27 wickets in the tournament when Pandya was caught in the slips in the 14th over after contributing a quickfire 34 off 30 deliveries.
However, David Miller (32 not out) and Gill comfortably took Gujarat to the winning target, with the latter securing victory with his boundary off Obed McCoy’s bowling which ensured he finished the match unbeaten on 45.
Buttler had the consolation of being named player of the tournament for his run tally across 17 matches and equalling the record for the number of centuries in a single IPL season.
"Exceeded all my expectation for the season apart from today," Buttler said. "A big congratulations to Hardik and his team, they are the deserving champions."