Kolkata in IPL final for first time
Kolkata Knight Riders 162 for 4 (Yusuf 40*) beat Delhi Daredevils 144 for 8 (Jayawardene 40, Kallis 2-24, Narine 2-24) by 18 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
After four seasons of at times embarrassing underachievement, Kolkata Knight Riders will play for the IPL trophy on Sunday. For almost two-thirds of the qualifier against Delhi Daredevils, they nearly blew it, though the odds were stacked in their favour right from the start. On a pitch where the first ball of spin turned sharply, Knight Riders had three spinners waiting; Delhi Daredevils stuck to playing three specialist fast bowlers.
Daredevils' strategy did not seem to have backfired when Knight Riders lumbered to 106 for 4 in 16 overs. In the chase, despite losing Virender Sehwag and David Warner in the first 13 balls, Daredevils were right in the hunt at 83 for 2 after 10 overs. But like they had suddenly bolted away in the last four overs of their innings, Knight Riders choked Daredevils in the latter half of the chase. Daredevils did not help their cause, sending Pawan Negi ahead of Ross Taylor, who finally came in at No. 7 when the asking-rate was more than 14 an over.
The late boost that carried Knight Riders to a challenging total on the difficult pitch came from the unlikeliest quarters. Yusuf Pathan, who had done almost nothing the entire season, and Laxmi Shukla, playing in place of an unfit Manoj Tiwary, carted the quicks for 56 off the final four overs, and 36 off the final two, as Knight Riders surged to 162.
Gautam Gambhir had once again given Knight Riders a strong start, taking the fast bowlers for several boundaries. He had sped to 32 off 16 deliveries before he failed to make his ground to a direct hit from mid-off after having backed up too far. Not for the first time after Gambhir's departure, Knight Riders lost their way. Only 58 runs came off the next ten overs as Negi, the left-arm spinner, and Irfan Pathan strangled the batsmen.
Just when it seemed Knight Riders had wasted Gambhir's efforts upfront, Yusuf and Shukla launched into the quicks, who did not let up on the pace. Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav kept bowling in the late 140s with Morne Morkel not far behind. But the faster they bowled, the ball only came on better on the slow pitch.
Yusuf began the assault in the 17th over, carting a Morkel length ball for a straight six. Shukla took the lead in the 19th, making room to loft Morkel over extra cover for four and pulling him over deep square leg for six. It was to get worse for Daredevils in the last over. David Warner dropped Yusuf as he ran across from long-on and ended up parrying it for six. Yusuf cover-drove and flicked the last two deliveries for fours.
The core of the attack that had taken Daredevils to No. 1 position after the league stage had been taken apart. Yadav and Morkel went for 37 each, Aaron for 48, including 21 in that final over.
The last thing Daredevils needed at that stage was a rough decision, and pat it came in the second over of the chase. Warner, who had just smashed Shakib Al Hasan for six over long-on, missed the next ball as he pushed forward, but was given out caught by umpire Billy Doctrove as the ball popped up to the wicketkeeper off the pad. Sehwag departed next ball, edging an attempted cut off the impressive L Balaji to the keeper.
Just when it seemed Daredevils had done themselves in even before Sunil Narine came on, Naman Ojha and Mahela Jayawardene responded with the highest stand of the match. The duo took Shakib, who had a forgettable game, for 15 runs in the fourth over. Bowling too quick to get any bite from the surface, Shakib was lofted inside-out and down the ground for two fours and a six.
Though the general lack of pace in the Knight Riders attack started to make its presence felt, Ojha and Jayawardene kept the runs coming. The duo was in control when Ojha cut a long hop from Bhatia straight to Gambhir at backward point. A few tight overs and Venugopal Rao's struggle further increased the pressure on Jayawardene. The threat of Narine, who gave just seven runs in his first two overs, forced him to attack the other bowlers, eventually leading to him being stumped off Abdulla in the 15th over.
With 55 needed off 32, Sehwag sent in Negi ahead of Taylor, who hit his third ball from Narine for six over wide long-on. But it was too late by then. Daredevils have another chance to get it right in the second qualifier on Friday.
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo