Knight Riders v Sunrisers, IPL 2014, Kolkata May 24, 2014

Yusuf smashes fastest fifty to power KKR to second

Kolkata Knight Riders 161 for 6 (Yusuf 72, Uthappa 41) beat Sunrisers Hyderabad 160 for 7 (Dhawan 29, Sammy 29) by four wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

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Isa Guha: Situation was made for Yusuf

There were 321 runs in 34.2 overs, and it was hard to say by the end of it if there had been more runs off the middle of the bat or its edges. There were dropped catches, run-outs, run-outs arising from dropped catches, and, in the middle of all this, a mad dash to make up a net-run-rate deficit. For most part, the match had been a comedy of errors, but by the time it ended, it was a genuine Twenty20 classic.

Kolkata Knight Riders needed to chase 161 to beat Sunrisers Hyderabad. They needed to do it in 15.2 overs to knock Chennai Super Kings off second place, and get two shots at reaching the final. When Yusuf Pathan walked in, they needed 106 from 47 balls. He was dropped before he had scored a run. He was dropped again when he was on 15. Neither was a difficult chance.

And then, out of nowhere, it all came together for him. Till today, Adam Gilchrist had held the record for the fastest IPL fifty. It had come off 17 balls. When Yusuf mowed Dale Steyn over deep midwicket for the fifth six of his innings, he had reached 50 in 15 balls. He took 26 off that over - 4, 6, 6, 4, 4, 2. By the time Yusuf holed out for 72 off 22 balls, the equation had come down to less than a run a ball. Knight Riders beat Sunrisers with 34 balls left to play. They beat Super Kings to second with a cushion of six balls.

The defeat knocked Sunrisers out of the tournament, leaving Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals to battle it out for fourth on Sunday. Sunrisers started the game with only a small chance of qualifying. Their selections - they left out Aaron Finch, and played Jason Holder and S Anirudha, neither of whom had played a match for them this season - and the general quality of their play only made it even more improbable. In the end, they were left needing to bowl Knight Riders out for 23 to overhaul Royals' net run rate.

Knight Riders' ask wasn't that improbable, but it could be argued that they made it harder for themselves than it could have been on a pitch that offered the quicker bowlers bounce and seam movement. After they opted to bowl, their three seamers, particularly Morne Morkel, extracted plenty of both, but they also sprayed it around.

After Morkel had bowled David Warner with the second ball of the match, Shikhar Dhawan and Naman Ojha put on 64 in 46 balls. Neither batsman looked convincing at the crease, and both interspersed boundary hits with plays-and-misses. Dhawan had five fours in his 31-ball 29, but also 18 dot balls. All of Ojha's 26 runs came in boundaries. His innings contained six scoring shots and 17 dots.

The remainder of Sunrisers' innings was just as low on cricketing quality, and full of incident. There were two dropped catches, three run-outs, and the furrow on Gautam Gambhir's brow grew wider and deeper with each top-edged slog that flew to the boundary. Even before the match had begun, Knight Riders had known roughly that they were in for a 15-over chase. A target of 131 would have required them to finish in 15.1 overs, a target of 201 in 15.3. It was up to them to keep Sunrisers to as low a total as possible.

As they began their chase of 161, Gambhir and Robin Uthappa had to contend with some early help for Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Steyn. They only scored seven off the first two overs, before they kicked into gear. Gambhir gave Bhuvneshwar the charge, Uthappa leaned into a couple of drives, and 13 came off the over.

It still looked difficult, though, and after Gambhir went, Uthappa and Manish Pandey ate up 17 balls in scoring 12 runs. Knight Riders then lost both Uthappa and Ryan ten Doeschate in the same over, and second place looked out of question. Had Anirudha at wide long-on or Steyn at deep square leg held on when Yusuf launched balls more or less straight at them, it would have been all over. They didn't, though.

And so, Parvez Rasool ended up conceding 22 off the only over he bowled. Yusuf hit a big six over cow corner, edged a slog thickly to the third-man boundary, hit another six off Steyn's palms, and found the long-on ropes via a fumble from Jason Holder. Two more sixes came off the next over, bowled by Karn Sharma. By now, Yusuf was hitting it cleanly, right out of the screws.

When Steyn began the 13th over, Knight Riders needed 45 off 20. Could he stop Yusuf? He couldn't. The first ball was clubbed back past him for four, the next two launched high and long for six. Steyn dug the next one in short, and Yusuf pulled him for four. Fifth ball, Yusuf slogged and edged another four past the keeper. This was now Steyn's most expensive over in the IPL. Steyn had applauded when AB de Villiers had launched an astonishing assault on him earlier in the season. Now, as the Eden Gardens became pure noise, his face froze into a pale, disbelieving grin.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo