Skipper Hardik Pandya on Tuesday hailed “match-winner” David Miller after the South African batsman led newcomers Gujarat Titans in to the IPL final with a seven-wicket victory over Rajasthan Royals.
Chasing 189 for victory in the first qualifier, Gujarat rode an unbeaten 106-run fourth-wicket stand between Pandya (40) and Miller (68) to achieve the target with three balls to spare in Kolkata.
With 16 needed off the final over, the left-handed Miller smashed each of Prasidh Krishna's first three balls for six to bring the house down at a full capacity Eden Gardens in the first qualifier. Known as ‘Killer’ Miller for his big hitting, the left-hand batsman smashed three fours and five sixes in his 38-ball knock.
“A lot of people counted David Miller out but for us he was always a match-winner from the time we brought him in the auction,” Pandya said of the attacking batsman who has been key to Gujarat's success in their debut season.
“What he did today, we always expected him to do that. But for us it was important to give him importance, love and clarity that what we expect of him and if he fails it’s okay, ‘it’s just a game’.”
The second qualifier on Friday will decide the other finalist.
Rajasthan, who ended second in the table topped by Gujarat, have another shot of making the finals when they meet the winner of Wednesday’s eliminator between Lucknow and Royal Challengers Bangalore.
“We are still alive. We still got a chance, disappointed today but dust ourselves off and go again,” Buttler said of his team, who won the inaugural edition in 2008. “We have full faith in the guys, we have a really good team.”
Gujarat lost Wriddhiman Saha for nought off New Zealand quick bowler Trent Boult on the second ball of the chase with the crowd silenced by the departure of their local hero.