Sunrisers Hyderabad v Kolkata Knight Riders, IPL 2017, Eliminator, Bengaluru May 17, 2017

KKR's rain-riddled angst washed away by captain and colt

Kolkata Knight Riders were at the mercy of the rain gods for more than three hours, but Gautam Gambhir and the unheralded Ishank Jaggi ensured that the wet weather ended as a mere footnote in victory

Ishank Jaggi and Gautam Gambhir's 36-run stand steered KKR out of trouble after they were 12 for 3 just seven balls into their chase © BCCI

For over three hours, Kolkata Knight Riders were on edge. A thunderstorm in Bengaluru threatened to have them packing up and boarding the first flight out on Thursday morning, instead of staying on for the second qualifier. Players and members of their support staff kept pacing up and down the stairs to check the intensity of the rain. Nathan Coulter-Nile, who spent large parts of the last two weeks recovering from concussion and headaches, had played a key role in restricting Sunrisers Hyderabad to 128. To go out now would be a bitter pill to swallow.

Understandably, the players were by themselves, quietly huddled inside the cozy comforts of the dressing room, not sure if their botched chase in the final league game against Mumbai Indians, where they needed 25 off the last three overs, would come back to haunt them. Finishing a point ahead of Sunrisers could have left them sipping a hot cup of tea on the rainy night, probably grooving to the DJ beats along with their celebrity owner Shah Rukh Khan. Now, it all seemed like torture. All they had played for during the course of the last 40 days now hinged on Chinnaswamy's revamped drainage and playing conditions being stretched by two hours for the playoffs.

At the other end, Sunrisers were calm and comfortable as they watched the rain hammer down; they wouldn't have much to worry about if it continued to stay that way. The forecast was for more rain. But if there's one thing you don't trust in Bengaluru, apart from light-traffic notifications, it is any rain prediction. The 15,000 odd fans present, alternating between chants of "K-K-R!", "S-R-K!" and, quite inexplicably, "Are-Ceee-Bee!", remained patient. Nearly two hours after the scheduled start of the second innings, there was a glimmer of hope.

The covers were being peeled off and the revamped drainage was at work. Resumption wasn't far off. A full chase was on. But just as they were set to resume, the rain returned to tease KKR some more. The players retreated to a game of box cricket inside the change-rooms. They did anything that could put their restless legs to work. Sitting around wasn't an option.

As the clock ticked past the point where the game was certain to be reduced, Sunrisers, sensing they now had no option but to defend a revised score, brought out a bucket full of wet balls. Bowler after bowler rolled his arm over to get acclimatised. After a short wait to know the target they were to defend, it was finally conveyed to them that it would be 48. Six overs. Twenty-four minutes to determine if the defending champions would spend two more days in Bengaluru and earn the right to play Mumbai Indians in another elimination shootout.

Even on a tacky surface where the ball was gripping, as has been the norm at Chinnaswamy this season, it wasn't a stiff target. But Knight Riders came out and made it look like an arduous task. Chris Lynn allayed nerves by slashing his first ball off the tournament's best bowler - Bhuvneshwar Kumar - for six. But he fell next ball to a yorker-length delivery. Knight Riders were one down in the very first over.

Yusuf Pathan was sent in at No. 3 with desperation writ large on his face. After attempting a mistimed pull, he committed hara-kiri, taking off for a run blindly. By the time he turned back, Bhuvneshwar had flicked the ball back onto the stumps in his followthrough. Knight Riders, two down.

Now the crowd was behind local boy Robin Uthappa, but in trying to play to the gallery, he pulled one straight to the deep-square leg fielder. As he walked off, he did well to not make eye contact with his captain Gautam Gambhir, fuming at what he'd just seen. Knight Riders, three down - for 12, seven balls into the chase.

Now, it was Ishank Jaggi's turn. For two months, he'd carried drinks. In his career, he had only played five IPL matches, the last of them with Deccan Chargers in 2012. Until the eve of the game, he had no inkling that an opportunity would come his way in a knockout game. He'd nearly seen the team's net session finish and was winding up when he got a tap, asking him to pad up. He was the last man to have a hit. Manish Pandey's rib injury meant an opening, an opportunity to feature in an IPL XI for the first time in five years, an opportunity to steer a tense chase with his captain.

At the domestic T20 tournament, the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, earlier this year, he left a lasting impression on Gambhir by hitting three fours and six sixes for East Zone. The captain ensured his name was a forced into the IPL auction pool at the last moment. Here, there wasn't enough time to impress the man responsible for picking him, but he had to remain calm nevertheless. He got right behind the line first ball to play a proper back-foot defence. Gambhir walked across to punch his gloves at the end of the over. Perhaps never before had Gambhir celebrated a glorious back-foot defence this wildly.

Then, realising the need to take the chase upon himself, Gambhir showed smarts to pick his spots. When there was width outside off, he steered the ball behind point. If it was short, he was happy to use the pace and pull or hook. In doing so, he reeled off crucial boundaries.Off in-form legspinner Rashid Khan, he was beaten twice, but showed why he is regarded one of the best players of spin, driving inside-out.

The target was now into single digits. Jaggi, at his end, held his shape, held his composure, and hit the winning runs with four balls to spare. Gambhir pumped his fists and let out a roar. It was the roar of an angry man who had seen his side nearly wilt yet again. Then came the rare smile and the satisfaction of a win that could put them in a position to lift their third IPL crown.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Brishni on May 19, 2017, 6:32 GMT

    Ishank Jaggi ahould be played today. He showed he has the bottle for a tough scrap unlike seniors like Yusuf or Robin.

  • Rakesh on May 18, 2017, 19:31 GMT

    @ZZYZX, ANKIT_DAGA ... i am sure you weren't either. GG covered the line and played for slight turn and was beaten by big turn in the end but it doesn't mean he didn't pick the wrong one. i don't trust GG's solidity with bat against fast pace but against spinners and medium fast trundlers he still remains India's top 5 bet.

  •   Deepanjan Datta on May 18, 2017, 18:37 GMT

    One of those games where both sides could leave with their head held high. SRH and KKR were on par with their all-weather bowling attacks which prospered on all kind of surfaces. However, what took the defending champs down was their top-heavy batting. KKR always have three solid all-round options to pinch some valuable runs even when their top order flops, a luxury SRH missed. And even as a KKR fan, I'd say the D/L is way too lopsided for a T20 game towards the team batting second since they can keep all their wickets and go for the broke. Bhuvi and Rashid were superb as ever, but Gambhir's experience trumped it.

  • PIOPX on May 18, 2017, 16:36 GMT

    It was aticipated that KKR would win.Yes! At this venue.I noted that the ESPN commentators faviourites are Supergiant or Mumbai except one who said KKR only because he wants to be different.There were varying analysis including a balance team and experience players.My take on this, is that all the teams had well experience players and also a balance team.This includes RCB.On the day of the match its about application,the toss,the wicket and to an extent the venue.For now,KKR do have a balance team,the venue is good to their likeing and the wicket favoured their bollers.The advantage would be decide on based on the application of individual players given the condition and who won the toss.

  • avinash on May 18, 2017, 10:39 GMT

    Kuldeep got dhoni out 2 times beating him in air , that doesn't mean dhoni is bad player.similarly gambir is good player.

  • Brishni on May 18, 2017, 6:03 GMT

    Cap'n fantastic Gambhir & Ishank Jaggi (a proper batsman) showed exactly how to bat : rotate strike, build a partnership & then hit boundaries once set.

    Yusuf's irresponsible run out today coupled with his irresponsible innings in the last play off match where KKR's defeat cost them a 2nd place finish have been far too common.

    He needs to put his head down & score runs; otherwise he is not worth his place in the team.

  • simonp3164620 on May 18, 2017, 4:45 GMT

    I think the author meant the glorious inside out shot hit by Gambhir in Rashid's first over to negate his spin. The ball nearly went to the boundary, only to be saved by a brilliant dive by the fielder at long off. Gambhir did play most balls of Rashid's two overs, shielding the less experienced Jaggi and negating Rashid.

  • ilamuhil on May 18, 2017, 4:45 GMT

    GG is one of the best and top class Indian batsman and now he has also matured as captain. I believe that he will return to national side because still he has lots of cricket in him.

  • ankit on May 18, 2017, 0:56 GMT

    "Off Rashid Khan, he showed why he was one of the best players of spin, picking his googlies effortlessly and driving inside-out. In doing so, he reeled off crucial boundaries."

    Reading this, I am forced to think that I was watching a completely different match. Didn't Rashid beat Gambhir twice with googlies in his first over ? And, factually, he didn't hit a single boundary off Rashid.

  • Amit Behere on May 17, 2017, 23:51 GMT

    Am not sure that the author was watching the same match as I was. Gambhir didn't pick even one of Rashid Khan's googlies.

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