Kolkata Knight Riders’ innings resembled the emcee’s frenetic but eventually futile attempt to whip up some non-existent frenzy inside the half-empty Ferozeshah Kotla on Wednesday night.
It wasn’t a very easy pitch to bat on, given the frugal number of boundaries hit in the game in spite of the presence of some heavy hitters on both sides. But it also wasn’t the kind of close, scrappy contest so typical of the Kotla.
Chasing 163, KKR’s innings never really took off, giving Hyderabad Sunrisers a 22-run win and a hard-earned passage into another fling at a final berth against Gujarat Lions on Friday. It was also an emphatic announcement of the uncanny accuracy of SRH’s bowlers in the death overs. KKR’s fate seemed to be hanging by a knife’s edge, when, with 47 needed off 24 balls, Manish Pandey seemed in a mood to celebrate his national call-up by playing lone ranger.
Mustafizur ‘The Fizz’ Rahman’s cutters and yorkers remained spot on until Pandey threatened to break through, anticipating a yorker and smashing it through mid-wicket. But one ball later, he had holed out to long-on off Bhuvneshwar Kumar (319 off his 4 overs), and Kolkata’s fight had fizzled out.
It was Moises Henriques , as it turned out, who got to celebrate his Test recall with an all-round performance. The decisive moment for SRH seemed to have come much earlier, earlier than Yusuf Pathan’s dismissal. A moment of nifty magic produced by Yuvraj Singh to run out Colin Munro, as Gautam Gambhir took off for a risky run, was the portent of a KKR chase gone awry in a hurry.
It wasn’t just on the field that Yuvraj reprised his old self in this ‘eliminator’, billed as a battle between KKR’s spin strengths and Hyderabad’s pace aces. Kuldeep Yadav produced sizzling returns of 335 and accounted for David Warner, Henriques and Ben Cutting. But it was Yuvraj (44 off 30; 8×4, 1×6) who planted the seed of doubt in KKR’s minds.
SRH, having dumped the struggling Kane Williamson, found a strong prop in Yuvraj’s extremely timely return. Yuvraj, whose last IPL fifty came on May 5, 2015, 12 IPL innings ago, and whose previous highest against KKR was a 38 in 2009, not only breached the 4,000-run mark in all T20s but often displayed the fluidity of old under pressure, dancing down the ground and lofting Kuldeep Yadav straight down the ground for maximum and pouncing on anything overpitched from Narine.
For KKR, who dropped Shakib-al Hasan for Morne Morkel, persisting with Kuldeep Yadav paid off and he managed to reprise last Sunday’s performance in this rematch, his wrong ones, impeccable lengths and penchant for big wickets prompting talk of the bowler being deserving of bigger opportunities.