Spin tornado sees off Hurricanes
Kolkata Knight Riders 141 for 3 (Kallis 54*, Pandey 40) beat Hobart Hurricanes 140 for 6 (Malik 66*) by 7 wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Kolkata Knight Riders took their winning streak to 14, the joint second-highest in Twenty20 history, and made it to their first Champions League T20 final after the spinners reduced Hobart Hurricanes to 140 for 6. Having lost captain Tim Paine to a stomach bug, Hurricanes had to contend with 16 overs of spin, including the opening spell of Yusuf Pathan. They couldn't break free of their chokehold, reaching 140 thanks only to Shoaib Malik's late surge. Knight Riders, however, made a bit of heavy weather of the chase, with Jacques Kallis and Yusuf getting stuck in the end, bringing the equation up to 21 off 13 before finishing it off with five balls to spare.
Knight Riders stuck to their winning formula after the stand-in Hurricanes captain Xavier Doherty chose to bat on what looked like a flat hard pitch. By the time Yusuf sent down the first over, it was obvious it was a pitch slower than expected. Andre Russell provided the first breakthrough by latching on to a tough leading edge off his own bowling, with Dom Michael being undone by the slowness of the surface. In the next over, Hurricanes' batsman of the tournament, Aiden Blizzard got a rough decision, given lbw off a thick inside edge.
From then on it was going to be a catch-up game for Hurricanes. Knight Riders made sure they didn't take too many liberties by bringing on their two attacking spinners, Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav, one after the other. As a result, Hurricanes had to be watchful, crawling to 54 for 3 in 10 overs, their lowest 10-over score of the tournament. Ben Dunk did majority of the scoring in the first half, but Kuldeep accounted for him.
It was down to Malik, their best player of the spin, to provide them some sort of fighting total. Malik obliged, taking 21 runs off the 19th over, bowled by Kuldeep, but the support from the other side was hard to come by. Take out 105 from 75 balls scored between Malik and Dunk, you have precious nothing from the rest of the team.
However, the rest of the team was spirited in defence of the small target. The fast bowlers, Ben Hilfenhaus and Doug Bollinger, got stuck into Gautam Gambhir and had him early. An adventurous shot off Doherty accounted for Robin Uthappa, and Knight Riders were 44 for 2 off 44 legal deliveries. Kallis then provided the solidness, and Manish Pandey gave them the impetus by peppering his favourite wide long-on area. Hurricanes didn't help their own case with three missed run-outs, and Pandey's wicket off a no-ball.
The free hit went for four, followed by another, bringing the equation down to 49 off 42. When Pandey holed out to long-on in the 16th over, he left Knight Riders just 34 off 28. The next 15 balls were mostly yorkers, conceded just 13, drew some frustrated shots from Yusuf and Kallis, and the game was in the balance with 21 required off 13. Ben Laughlin then failed to execute his yorker with the last ball of the 18th over, and Yusuf crashed it through extra cover.
Doherty was now left with a big decision. He and Bollinger had an over each left, and he went against the conventional wisdom to bowl the 19th himself. Kallis stepped out first ball, and crashed him for a six first up. That was game done for all practical purposes, but Hilfenhaus provided the finishing touch by parrying off the first ball of the 20th over for a six after having misjudged a catch.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo