Yusuf and Kamran steal Rajasthan a thriller
Yusuf Pathan broke the IPL's first tie and with it Kolkata Knight Riders' hearts through clean hitting in the Super Over, to chase down 16 runs in four deliveries
Kolkata Knight Riders 150 for 8 (Ganguly 46, Gayle 41, Kamran 3-18) tied with Rajasthan Royals 150 for 6 (Yusuf 42, Mendis 2-19). Rajasthan win in Super Over
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
How they were out
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
How they were out
Yusuf Pathan broke the IPL's first tie and with it Kolkata Knight Riders' hearts through clean hitting in the Super Over, to chase down 16 runs in four deliveries. It was intense drama at Newlands with the match swinging either way - from the moment Rajasthan Royals lost two wickets in the first three overs till Sourav Ganguly's dismissal with two runs required and one ball to go - as the excitement spilled over into the Super Over, the solution to a Twenty20 tie.
It was Yusuf who helped Rajasthan recover from their second bad start in the tournament, at 14 for 2 in 2.2 overs this time. He plundered 42 off 21 balls, hitting six boundaries and two sixes. He then bowled the first over for Rajasthan, with fast, bouncy offbreaks to keep Chris Gayle and Brendon McCullum from getting off to a quick start. His first three overs bowled inside the Powerplays, to two of the most destructive batsmen in world cricket went for just 12.
Later, Sourav Ganguly pulled another one out of the old hat to almost mastermind a chase that looked gone with five down and 57 required in the last six overs. His 46 off 30 balls - especially the backing away and hitting through the off side - evoked the days when Ganguly used to be the best ODI batsman in the world.
Kamran Khan, Shane Warne's left-arm sling prodigy, bowled the designated Super Over for Rajasthan, but he had already bowled a 'super over' before that - the last over of the actual match. Kolkata needed only seven to win off that over, and despite starting off with a wide, Kamran took Ganguly's wicket off the fifth ball and a single off the last ball ensured the dream result for the IPL, a tie.
Three Kolkata players would especially be heartbroken. Gayle, who was limping when he lofted the ball into the stratosphere many a time during his 41 off 33 balls, got the chase going. He then hit three successive boundaries in the Super Over to set Rajasthan a difficult target. He also assisted Ajantha Mendis in pulling back Rajasthan after Yusuf had reprised some of his last year's form. Mendis removed Yusuf and Graeme Smith, two of Rajasthan's most dangerous batsmen, in one over, and gave away only 19 in his four overs.
But in four balls of his Super Over, Mendis went for 18. Yusuf hit him over wide long-off for a first-ball six. He was then dropped off the second ball, with Brad Hodge failing to latch on to the miscued slog sweep running in from long-on towards mid-off. The third ball was hit over midwicket, and the fourth swept along the ground to square-leg boundary. Cricket can be tough on the toughest of players.
The most dejected - and it showed - was Ganguly, who brought in all his experience to fight Shane Warne's canny tactics to single-handedly take the game to a stage from where it should have been a cruise. But with eight required off eight, he lost his partner, Yashpal Sharma, to an irresponsible shot. On the fifth ball of the last over, with two required he himself went looking for a four through the off side and edged Kamran.
Heart-broken or not, when we look back at this game, Yusuf, Kamran, and Warne's innovative leadership will shine as the brightest moments.
Yusuf had come into bat when Anureet Singh, the Railways medium-pacer, and Ishant Sharma had taken out the Rajasthan newcomers Paul Valthaty and Rob Quiney in three balls early after they were put in by Kolkata. The changes were necessitated by a growing concern over some of the Indian domestic batsmen's capabilities on the bouncier pitches of South Africa.
But Yusuf put any such doubts over his credentials to rest as soon as he came in. A monstrous straight six off Ishant off the third ball he faced was followed by an across-the-line boundary off the next ball. Yusuf tried to spoil a decent debut by Anureet through a swivel-pulled six off the next ball he faced. Ajit Agarkar was the next in line, and he suffered the worst treatment, going for three boundaries in four balls. From 14 for 2 in 2.2 overs, Yusuf had taken Rajasthan to 54 for 2 at the end of the Powerplay through a brilliant counterattack.
But that's when Mendis came on, and turned the game around. Such was the choke applied by Mendis and Gayle that Rajasthan had to wait for 49 deliveries in the middle overs for a boundary. From 70 for 2 in eight overs, they went to 132 for 6 in 19 before Abhishek Raut, another debutant, ruined Anureet's debut with two sixes and a four in the last over.
A simplistic and a ruthless way to look back at the match would be to look at the 20th overs of each innings. Both times Kolkata looked a stronger side, but Rajasthan pulled it back through their immense fighting qualities. In the process the teams produced a Twenty20 classic. The only pity was that the teams had to be separated after they had both made multiple comebacks from seemingly impossible situations.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo