The Gujarat Titans have taken a two-point lead at the top of the Indian Premier League table after beating the Kolkata Knight Riders on Saturday. Playing at the Eden Gardens, the Titans came up with the away win in a performance where the bowling unit put in a commendable performance in the seven-wicket win.

Winning the toss and opting to bowl, the Titans were made to suffer at the hands of KKR opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz, who powered his way to a 39-ball 81 – with five boundaries and seven sixes.

Despite the Afghan’s heroics though, the Titans bowlers managed to pick up wickets and ply the pressure on the hosts. Mohammed Shami finished with figures of 3/33, while Noor Ahmed and Joshua Little – the latter being the player of the match – impressed with 2/21 and 2/25 respectively.

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“They got us back in the game and they kept us in the hunt. The way Gurbaz batted... After a long time, I’ve seen the bowling team was bowling good balls, but someone was trying to hit and hit with conviction and clarity,” said Titans captain Hardik Pandya at the end of the match.

“The way they (Ahmed and Little) pulled it back and squeezed in those kind of overs, I would have, on any given day taken 180 on that wicket. When you see someone score a 39-ball 81, and the team only scores 179, I’d definitely take it on any given day.”

In the run chase, the Titans stuttered a bit after losing the wickets of Pandya and Shubhman Gill within the space of four deliveries, with the score at 93/3 after 11.2 overs.

That’s when Vijay Shankar, batting at No 4, stepped up and scored an impressive 51 off 24, with David Miller supporting with a quickfire 32 off 18.

IPL 2023: Vijay Shankar’s fiery 51* helps Gujarat Titans trump Kolkata Knight Riders by 7 wickets

Pandya was particularly impressed by Shankar’s performance.

“He’s a fitter Vijay Shankar, he’s more confident, the amount of hard work he’s done is terrific,” he said.

“He changed the game. At one point of time, it looked like the game would go to the last over. But the way he got a few hits, he changed it. I think, going forward you’ll see a lot of Vijay Shankar innings like this. I believed that good guys get into good places, he’s one of them and I’m very happy.”

The Titans got to the target with 13 balls to spare.

The defending champions have now won six out of their eight matches so far this season and have now won three on the trot. Central to that success, Pandya asserted, was the entire group looking to step up when the chips are down.

“Somewhere down the line, in the group we know that to win the game, no matter in what situation we are in, we have to play good cricket and that humbleness is helping us win games from difficult situations,” he added.

“Every time people are in the game they want to contribute. But at the same time they respect the difficult situations. They want to face it and come out of it. The humbleness and acceptance that every day we have to play good cricket, no matter where we stand in the (league) table. It’s just about playing good cricket and being smart, which is wonderful.”

The Titans are two points ahead of Rajasthan Royals, Chennai Super Kings and Lucknow Super Giants (all three are on 10 points).

They next host Delhi Capitals on Tuesday in Ahmedabad.