Why Gujarat Titans won the IPL

A breakdown of what their team did all season long.

Gujarat were the best bowling team in the powerplay this year. Yet in the final, as good as they were, there was still Jos Buttler at the crease when it finished. But it was that go slow at the start that began it all.

Being a good bowling team isn’t as sexy as some hitter slapping the ball everywhere. But averaging 26 with the ball at the top is big.

The next best was the Royals; wickets at the top matter more than any others.

Mohammad Shami took 11 powerplay wickets, equal best with Mukesh Choudhary at the top of the IPL. He averaged 24, just a brilliant outcome. No one else was anywhere near that good.

But despite Lockie Ferguson’s bad year, he took six wickets up the top. Yash Dayal took another five as well. That’s a good combination.

They also have the best economy at the death, again, we often focus on the players and teams who take a lot of wickets at the end. But in truth, it’s the ability to stop the runs. That is the period of the game with the highest variability. Titans are the only team allowing fewer than 10 runs an over at the end, and they are 1.8 runs an over from the most expensive, the Sunrisers.

Ferguson and Shami go for runs at the end, Joseph and Dayal did well with limited opportunities. But no, they were so damn good at the death because Rashid Khan went at less than a run a ball there. And he bowled 17 overs, one more than Shami did, and almost half the number of runs. He carried the entire bowling line up to better figures.

Welcome to Rashid Khan’s World.

It is again the death with the bat that matters to them. Having converted Hardik Pandya to an anchor largely because they don't have the kind of top three that other teams have available to them. So they tend to bat within themselves all the way through the innings and then press turbo at the death.

If they weren’t such a good bowling team, this would actually mean they are regularly struggling to stay too far ahead.

And in some ways, they only had two batters at the death, but the thing is, those two happened to make the first and fifth most runs at the ends of games this year.

Miller’s 287 runs in the last six overs are massive, and Tewatia almost beat 200 as well.

If you just look at their batting in total. It’s David Miller who stands out. They didn’t really have that many incredible years with the bat, and I assume that he was not the one they were expecting.

Obviously, they have got near career-best year from him. You can argue if it was this year or 2013, but it was something quite special.

That this has come a decade later makes it a lot more surprising, but he was a big part of them being able to stretch that batting out. His ability to end up with so many runs despite coming in at five while still striking well has been the key. And being that last year was his second-worst season, how on earth could you have expected this, unless you were his dad.

But again, outside of him there is not that much that pops out. Their batting was solid, not sensational. But they got two other surprising years as well.

Rahul Tewatia’s numbers are brilliant considering where he bats, averaging over 30 and striking near 150. Him and Miller made a perfect number five and six punch.

Teams that control that part of the innings in the IPL often dominate. Please see Indians, Mumbai. And Tewatia, having probably his best year with the bat was good, because he went at two runs a ball the few times he bowled and got smashed out of the IPL.

They spent a lot of money on an all rounder who couldn’t bowl.

And then there is Hardik with the anchor season. I don’t like it, but with Miller and Tewatia playing as they were, they needed one other guy to make runs. It probably should have been one of the other guys not named Gill in the top three. But they couldn’t do it, and Hardik either decided to change, or just did so naturally. So what you end up with is three players at four, five and six making huge amounts of runs.

Usually in T20 the two openers make the most, then number three and four are clumped together, and numbers five and six are miles off.

But you look for Gujarat and their number four was their top scorer, and their number five was third.

So with all these set guys over performing their career run totals they hit the death and exploded.

The Titans’ bowling, which won them the game today, was pretty good as well. Rashid Khan played his part today but didn’t dominate. But again had a frankly absurd season for anyone else but about par for him. Mohammad Shami didn’t have one of his better games but had a cracking year, and without him, they aren’t this kind of team. Yash Dayal took an early wicket. He has been expensive but has taken a lot of victims. Whether it be Ferguson or Joseph, neither of them really worked. But today Ferguson did, and that seems to be the kind of thing that happened for them all year.

But the most important thing really is in the fact that Hardik Pandya could bowl, but they used him as the sixth option. And they barely had to, and he took wickets and didn’t go for runs on the few times he bowled. That meant he was confident and rested when he delivered in the final. Considering his body, the rest was probably more important. Some of this was helped by Rajasthan only having five front line batters, a bowler they got a lot of runs out of in every position they needed him and Riyan Parag’s hitting. The problem with all that is in knockout games when your top order know the batting is shallow, they usually get a little stuck, and worse still, if they go out, they were right to be worried.

If you want to know what all that looks like in real life, watch Trent Boult come out to bat and face Lockie Ferguson with four overs to go.

But it was Gujarat who made those wickets happen, and you look at them all year, and they have kept pressure on teams with the ball. With the bat, it’s been the middle order. Today they chased nothing. But that overachieving middle-order got them to the final, and their sixth bowler who they never really needed dismissed Jos Buttler.

Oh, and I forgot to say, despite Rahul Tewatia’s high price tag, this year they only bowled him in six overs, and in the finals he didn’t bat or bowl. In fact, he made two runs in their final four matches. Think about that, the high price all rounder they bought who completely over performed with the bat, and whose bowling was just as bad, didn't do a thing in the finals. And it didn't matter. That is when you know things are going your way.

It was that kind of season, and that is why they finished on top, that’s why they never lost a match in the playoffs, and that’s why Gujarat Titans won the title.