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IPL 2024 – Shubman Gill, Sai Sudharsan leave CSK “in shock”

Their onslaught made CSK resort to plan B and plan C quite quickly and even started thinking about plan D, head coach Fleming said.

Review: Who was better – Gill or Sudharsan?  Did CSK make a mistake in their overseas combination?

Review: Who was better – Gill or Sudharsan? Did CSK make a mistake in their overseas combination?

GT beat CSK by 35 runs in Ahmedabad to stay alive in the playoff race

Shubman Gill usually celebrates his hundred years by bowing with a smile on his face. There is a certain healthfulness in that. But Friday was different. After reaching the three-figure mark against Chennai Super Kings in Ahmedabad, he jumped up, threw an overhead punch and let out an expletive.

It was an outburst of pent-up anger after his lean form and Gujarat Titans’ three successive defeats that had left them on the brink of elimination from the 2024 IPL.

In a season where every other batting unit pushed the limits, GT, the 2022 champion and 2023 runner-up, seemed stuck in the past. Before this match, their powerplay scoring rate was 7.23 and in the middle 7.70 – the two worst in this IPL.

This is also reflected in the results: four wins in 11 matches. A defeat against CSK would have eliminated them in front of their home crowd. But Gill and Sai Sudharsan changed the script and smashed a hundred each to keep their faint hopes alive.

It had been a mixed season for Gill up to that point. He started well, scoring 255 runs in the first six matches at an average of 51.00 and a strike rate of 151.78. In the next five, however, he managed just 67 runs at a strike rate of 101.51. Three times he was fired in the single digits.

Gill’s opening partner Wriddhiman Saha had even more difficulty. In nine matches, he had an average of 15.11 and a strike rate of 118.26. The lack of running and momentum at the top of the order has regularly exposed the fragility of GT’s middle order.

Sudharsan, their No. 3, was scoring runs but with a strike rate of 131.67. In IPL 2024, it was lower even for an anchor, especially when your openers weren’t shooting.

On Friday, however, everything fell into place for GT. Saha was out, so Sudharsan got a chance to open the innings with Gill. The left-right combination benefited GT in two ways. First, it meant that a batter always had the shorter boundary on his leg side. Secondly, it did not allow CSK to use their spinners as they would have liked.

Gill and Sudharsan took advantage and plundered 210 in just 104 balls, the highest opening stand in the IPL. At one point, it was more of a contest between Gill and Sudharsan than between GT and CSK. After 16 overs, both batters were at 96 off 48, and the race to score the 100th IPL hundred was on.

McClenaghan praises Sai Sudharsan’s maturity

The GT hitter is not a power hitter, but he is working on that aspect of his game and his success.

It was Gill who had this honor. Facing his 50th ball, he got a full toss from Simarjeet Singh which he duly sent towards the square leg boundary. In the last ball of the same, Sudharsan also brought his hundred, and he too got there in 50 balls.

Although both finished similarly, they had started their innings in contrasting fashion, with Gill doing the bulk of the scoring in the powerplay.

CSK had opted to bowl hoping that the red clay pitch would help the spinners from the start. Gill disrupted this plan by opening up about himself. Facing his first ball, he hit Mitchell Santner for four. Two balls later, he raced down the track and bowled the spinner for a straight six. By the end of the third, he had raced to 20 off eight balls.

Gill’s intention took GT to 58 for no loss at the end of the power play. That may not sound like much – Sunrisers Hyderabad have crossed 100 twice in the first six this season – but it was the second-best start for GT.

Meanwhile, Sudharsan was 39 off 29 after eight overs. It looked like another round from him, but then he kept going. In the next three balls, he hit Ravindra Jadeja for a four and a six to bring up his fifty.

He followed it up with successive sixes from Simarjeet and successive fours from Daryl Mitchell. With a swept six off Santner, he moved to 92 off 44 balls, leaving Gill far behind, on 66 off 34.

Gill closed the gap and then got past Sudharsan, hitting three sixes in four balls against Mitchell. The second of those six came via a fall from Deshpande who parried the ball beyond the far boundary.

CSK bowlers had no answer to the onslaughts of Shubman Gill and B Sai Sudharsan Associated Press

“I think we got through plan B and plan C pretty quickly and maybe started to get into plan D,” CSK head coach Stephen Fleming said after the match. “He was a high caliber hitter. Sometimes you have to take the cap off and say well done, and on this occasion I thought those two were great.

“We were quite shocked and even our lineout, which has been good over the years, was taken back. There were some catches and that was a bit unusual for us.”

CSK made a comeback towards the end, conceding just 22 in the last three overs. But by then Gill and Sudharsan had caused irreparable damage.

Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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