IPL 2021: Kolkata reach finals after another nail-biting finish

Delhi Capitals once again crashed out of the tournament at final stages as they lost to the Knight Riders by 3 wickets.

IPL 2021: Kolkata reach finals after another nail-biting finish

By - Vadiraj Kanakagiri

The two eliminators this season were nothing short of nominations for the Oscars in the suspense-mystery-thriller category. And KKR are at the forefront of producing such thrillers, almost creating them out of nothing. At this rate, after back to back last over finishes, they'd give any Alfred Hitchcock movie a run for its money.

For Delhi though, it's the same story again. So close, yet so far. They didn't even get that close to their last campaign. But they looked like a better team this time around. They had dominated the league stage. They had playoff experience. Yet they succumbed to pressure situations. It's not that Delhi didn't have any experienced guys or people that haven't been in IPL finals, it's just a franchise thing. Like RCB, the history of that particular franchise majorly dictates how players react in pressure cooker situations.

Winning the toss, Morgan elected to bat second after having done it successfully a couple of days back. Both teams had in mind that at Sharjah, the most successful game plan is, the team that wins the powerplay, is most certainly gonna win the match. Prithivi continued his dominance inside the powerplay and smashed Narine for two sixes in one of his overs. But Chakravarty put a stop to his innings before it could take off, as he trapped him in front in his very first delivery in the match.

Marcus Stoinis came in at 3, who was replacing Tom Curran in the eleven. After the first six overs though, the game took its usual path. Runs were hard to get by and batsmen were scoring more runs of the inside edges than their middles of the bat. The spin trio of Varun-Shakib-Narine put a stranglehold on Delhi's innings, which has become a habit for them. After making just 18 off 23 rocks, Stoinis thought going after pace was his only option, but got his stumps castled by a Mavi good length delivery.

Shreyas Iyer came in at 4 and looked very motivated to put on a show after the news of his non-inclusion in the world cup squad came out that afternoon. No matter how hard they tried, the slowness and the lack of bounce of the pitch never allowed them to get the big ones in the middle overs. Dhawan and Pant perished going for over-aggressive strokes. Shimron Hetmyer too struggled like everyone else and was out by a remarkable take at the boundary from Gill. But, as luck would have it, Varun didn't have even a millimetre part of his shoe behind the line. Hetmyer was called back and he made them pay a little by thrashing Lockie Ferguson for a couple of monster sixers. 

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At the other end though, even with a lot of intent, Iyer couldn't even get his strike rate above 100 till the last ball of the innings. He hit a six off the final delivery and breathed a sigh of relief as he remained unbeaten on 30 from 27. Delhi set a target of 136, another neither here nor there kinda score.

If KKR have reached this far, it's mainly thanks to the two blocks up top, Gill and Venkatesh Iyer. The team needed them to continue on their rich vein of form and the pair didn't disappoint. Once the innings was underway, the pair seemed to be batting on a completely different strip to the one Delhi were batting on. The ball was coming on nicely, the bounce was true and suddenly Delhi felt like they're left with no hope. The KKR pair made the most of the conditions, especially Iyer, going for a big one every single over and almost always finding the boundary.

Venki Iyer brought up yet another fifty and Gill complemented his partner with crisp pulls and punches. The pair put on a whopping 96 for the first wicket and demolished all the hopes of a turnaround in the Delhi camp. Pant kept on rotating his bowlers one after the other in a circular motion, he almost looked clueless once his bowlers didn't get any assistance from the pitch. Iyer finally got out going for one shot too many and caught right at the boundary, almost booking a place in the final for his team.

But it wasn't going to be that simple. It was a playoff after all. Sharjah pitch hadn't shown its true colours yet. KKR hadn't pressed the panic button. Delhi wasn't ready to go down yet.

Just before the No.3 batter, Nitish Rana got out on 13, going for an ugly hoick assuming the game was in his pockets already, Delhi needed a mere 13 off 25 deliveries. That's almost double the balls for the needed runs. It's always the other way around.

And the collapse started. The one you would've believed to be true if you didn't witness it. Delhi made the comeback of comebacks.

Bowling the seventeenth, Avesh Khan got rid of Shubman Gill and gave away a miserly two runs. KKR weren't too fussed about it. But they had two new batters at the crease. And Pant quietly moved his fielders closer to the batter in the inner ring. Rabada came in for the eighteenth and made life worse for Tripathi by bowling four consecutive dots. Tripathi grappled hard but could hardly get the ball past the inner ring.

It felt like all the 11 fielders were inside the circle. Tripathi finally got one short and wide and he cut it fiercely to sweeper cover. He got a single which gave relief of a boundary. Watching this from the other end, Karthik was in no mood to play it out defensively. He went for an ugly hoick across the line, but only connected with thin air. Rabada had shattered Karthik's stumps on the final delivery and brought the life and some in this game out of nowhere by bowling a 1 run over.

Rabada passed the baton to his South African teammate Anrich Nortje with 10 needed off 12. And guess what, he didn't fall behind much either. After giving away 2 runs of the first ball due to a misfield, Nortje corrected his length and bowled straighter at the stumps. Out of touch, out of form, out of everything except luck and his captaincy, Morgan was on strike on the fourth ball. And he just couldn't do it. He's just lost it. He played two dots and he too couldn't stay still and went for a hoick but only could manage an inside edge back onto his stumps.

The whole Delhi team seemed like vultures for the KKR batters. They were all hunting together. After the pace trio had done their job and some, Rishab had one over of Ashwin left. He was their only option. And he tossed the ball to him with 7 needed off the last over.

And Ashwin too didn't do much different to what his bowling mates were doing for the last 3 overs. After giving away just a solitary run on the first two, Ashwin bowled a straighter one that missed Shakib's scoop and trapped him in front of the middle. In came Narine, who had won the previous encounter with his swashbuckling innings. Tripathi was itching to get on strike. Ashwin had sensed Narine wasn't gonna just block and run. He tossed it up, but out of the arc, to which Narine couldn't hold back and went for a big monster across the line, but only skied it straight into the hands of Axar Patel at long-on.

The tides have turned almost completely towards Delhi. With 6 needed off the final two deliveries, it was their game to lose. Amidst utter disbelief in the KKR camp, there was one hope left in the name of Rahul Tripathi, who was on strike. And he wasn't gonna turn the strike over again. He wanted to get it done himself. He had to. Ashwin bowled a carrom delivery and went away after pitching, out of the hitting arc, even outside off stump so that it couldn't be slogged to the leg side, but Tripathi had an answer.

He waited on the back foot, putting all his energy behind this uppish loft over long-off, which unbelievably cleared the ropes at long-off. KKR had escaped utter humiliation. The energy in the camp that was dead all this while, was back to its fullest. Tripathi had a quiet smirk on his face like he knew what was to unfold, all this while.

Brief Scores: Delhi Capitals 135/5 in 20 overs (Shikhar Dhawan 36, Shreyas Iyer 30*) lost to Kolkata Knight Riders 136/7 in 19.5 overs (Venkatesh Iyer 55, Suhbman Gill 46; Kagiso Rabada 2-23) by 3 wickets