Sunrisers' seamers snuff out Knight Riders
Sunrisers Hyderabad 162 for 8 (Yuvraj 44, Kuldeep 3-35) beat Kolkata Knight Riders 140 for 8 (Pandey 36, Bhuvneshwar 3-19) beat by 22 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
A total had been successfully defended in three out of five matches on slow Feroz Shah Kotla surfaces this season. There was no reason why Sunrisers Hyderabad, with one of the best bowling attacks in the competition despite Ashish Nehra's absence, couldn't defend 163 in a knockout game. Kolkata Knight Riders, the two-time champions, had won six out of their eight games chasing. This was an even contest on a pitch fairly similar to the ones at Eden Gardens. But disciplined bowling and outstanding fielding by Sunrisers derailed Knight Riders and by virtue of the 22-run win, Sunrisers have set up a clash with Gujarat Lions in the second qualifier in Delhi on Friday.
It wasn't a night for manic six-hitting but Yuvraj Singh's 30-ball 44 had all the elements that made him a feared limited-overs batsman once upon a time. Yet the effort that underlined his importance on Wednesday was a direct hit from backward point to dismiss Colin Munro early and induce panic among the Knight Riders.
It also lifted a unit that applied pressure courtesy David Warner's tactful bowling changes to escalate the asking rate. Bhuvneshwar Kumar pulled off a stunning catch at deep midwicket to dismiss the in-form Yusuf Pathan to further dent Knight Riders. At 69 for 4 in the 11th over, they were firmly behind in the game.
A no-holds-barred contest came alive as Manish Pandey and Suryakumar Yadav counterpunched, their 46-run stand, laced with unorthodoxy, caused a few flutters in the Sunrisers camp, but there was always the danger of them perishing in the quest for the big hits. Suryakumar, who was reprieved in the 15th over by Mustafizur Rahman at third man, miscued a slog to Shikhar Dhawan in the next over to leave Knight Riders needing 47 off 24.
Warner summoned his trump card Mustafizur for the first of his two remaining overs, and he responded by conceding just eight. With no option but to look for quick runs, Pandey kept swinging, one of which found Deepak Hooda at long-on. Bhuvneshwar, who finished with 3 for 19, followed the dismissal by spearing in yorkers and full-length deliveries which the batsmen couldn't get underneath. It was reduced to a game of hit-and-miss from there on, much like it was in the first half when Yusuf Pathan and Morne Morkel had Sunrisers, who were sent in, struggling for early momentum.
Dhawan's early wicket forced Warner to tread cautiously. He scored his first boundary off his 10th delivery, but his methods deviated from the usual. Instead of muscular hits, he relied on the drive and dabbing behind the wicket. He was reprieved on 10 when Yusuf put down a difficult chance off his own bowling, but he would only go on to add 18 more. Henriques finished with 31 off 21 and went on to pick up two wickets as well.
By squeezing three bonus overs from Yusuf in the Powerplay, Gambhir ensured he had control over the middle overs. His bowlers also limited Warner's off-side play by sticking to tight lines. The first six was hit by Henriques, when he pulled Yusuf towards deep midwicket to signal Sunrisers' move; the first six overs, four of which were bowled by the spinners, produced 43.
Left-arm wristspinner Kuldeep Yadav, introduced in the eighth over, was hard to pick. As well as Warner and Henriques did to rotate strike, the pair found boundary hitting difficult, as a three-over period after the first six brought just one four. Kuldeep exploited the pressure to stun Sunrisers with a double-strike. After taking a skier off his own bowling to send Henriques back, he clean bowled Warner with a wrong' un that beat his slog sweep. At 71 for 3 with 10 overs left, Sunrisers had to start afresh.
Yuvraj walked out to a slip and silly point, and was put through an examination by the wily Narine. He was able to take Kuldeep apart though and one of his two lofted hits was steeped with his old swagger. He raced to 18 off 12. When he starts off in that fashion, especially on a ground with short boundaries, it points to ominous signs.
Hooda was unfazed by the fuss at the other end; deep midwicket being his preferred area. He slogged two superbly-timed sixes, but his run-out after a mix-up with Yuvraj in the 16th over - Kuldeep effected a direct hit at the bowler's end from mid-off - stalled Sunrisers' yet again.
By then, Yuvraj was in a belligerent mood as he picked three leg-side boundaries before a premeditated scoop against Jason Holder resulted in the flattening of his middle stump. Bipul Sharma smacking Morkel for two sixes in the last over gave them momentum going into the break, which they rode on to ensure IPL 2016 will have a new champion.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo