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Suryakumar takes down the Titans with first IPL ton

Mumbai Indians 218 for 5 (Suryakumar 103*, Rashid 4-30) beat Gujarat Titans 191 for 8 (Rashid 79*, Madhwal 3-31) by 27 runs

For a little while, it looked like Suryakumar Yadav would actually finish a T20 without playing that one shot that made people’s jaws drop. And then he hit the most incredible six. It propelled him to his first IPL century and Mumbai Indians to a comfortable victory over the defending champions Gujarat Titans.

You know how Kane Williamson dabs to third man to get singles? Well, Suryakumar accessed the same area, except he cleared the boundary. He just saw a ball on off stump. He knew he could get under it. At the point where he made contact, he opened the face, just as Williamson does, and then the strength in his forearms and his wrists did the rest.

This is Suryakumar. He sees T20 cricket the way nobody else sees it.

Rashid ends up a footnote

Titans came into this game knowing a win would not only secure a spot in the playoffs but give them two shots at making the final.

And they turned to their main man to make it happen. Rashid Khan produced four wickets for 30 runs in a format that continues to be hostile to his kind. Even today, Suryakumar spent 49 balls proving that bowlers and their plans exist just so batters could come in and rip them all to shreds.

But Rashid wouldn’t buy that. He had Rohit Sharma caught at slip with a gorgeous legbreak. He upended Ishan Kishan by a simple change in length, the premeditated sweep shot failing against a ball that was too full for it. Titans saved the last six balls they had from Rashid for the match up against Tim David. Those are high stakes. It was the 17th over. This is the time David comes to life. Except he couldn’t because Rashid took him out for 5 off 3.

Very few are capable of producing wickets on demand like this. Even fewer are able to do so when the opposition comes hard at them.

Suryakumar turns it on

When Mumbai lost their third wicket in the ninth over, they spent a little while scoring just a run a ball. 15 off 15. And then all of a sudden, they crashed 32 in 10.

It was during this time that Vishnu Vinod, the Kerala wicketkeeper making his Mumbai debut, carved Mohammed Shami for a scarcely believable six. A ball ending up on top of off stump scythed over extra cover thanks to his fast hands and wicket wrists.

That would have been shot of the game if not for SKY doing SKY things.

He needed 32 balls to get to his fifty. That’s slow by his standards, and he was building his innings with orthodox shots. The only luxury he afforded himself were those straight sixes, where his weight is usually on the back foot, right up to the point where he meets the ball, and then he hops, lifting both himself and the ball up off the ground. That’s how he creates leverage. It’s his own unique thing.

Then Rashid took David out and something snapped. Suryakumar was 53 off 34 at the start of the 18th over. He hit Mohit Sharma for three fours and a six to move to 73 off 40. Then he met Shami in the 19th over and played a front-foot drive for six over third man, just by opening the face of the bat. Finally, on 97, with only one ball left in the innings, he did what he has done to fast bowlers all over the world, sweeping Alzarri Joseph from way outside off into the crowd past the square leg boundary.

Rashid or bust for Titans

As good as Titans are in a chase, they were up against it very quickly when all of their top three batters fell for single digits. Shubman Gill, Hardik Pandya and Wriddhiman Saha totalled 12 runs between them.

Vijay Shankar kept hopes of the improbable alive with a lovely little cameo. But he fell to Piyush Chawla‘s first ball of the match, this 34-year-old IPL legend having the best season of his career, taking his tally to 18 wickets.

At the other end, a 29-year-old rookie was having the time of his life. Akash Madhwal came into the tournament because Mumbai were having so much trouble with their bowling attack. This was only his fourth game of the IPL and the 26th of his T20 career. And already he has shown an appetite for the tough job. Bowling at the death, bowling to big hitters, bowling with games on the line.

Madhwal has a lovely yorker. And now, it appears his other balls are just as deadly, because when he hits a hard length, they keep skidding through. He bowled Gill with one that stayed lower than the batter expected. And he had David Miller lbw in just the same way.

Rashid carried the Titans with the bat as well, making his highest score in T20s, 79 off 32 with 10 sixes. A total of 103 for 8 in 14 overs rose to 191 for 8 in 20. But it was still 27 short. Imagine going three-fourth of the way to a century and picking up one short of five wickets in the same game and still losing it.

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