Having won the toss, Kolkata Knight Riders’ skipper Eoin Morgan, without even a single blink opted to bowl first, putting all the pressure on Delhi Capitals to set a total. Despite conditions stacked against them, the two in-form openers, Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw got the side off to a great start, with 18 runs off the first three overs.
And when Sunil Narine was introduced into the attack, Shikhar Dhawan punished the mystery spinner, with two sixes in the first three balls to set the ball rolling, with Delhi scoring 32 runs in the first four overs. But when Varun Chakravarthy was introduced into the attack, he struck to send the in-form opener Shaw back to the hut, for a 12-ball 18.
On one of the toughest pitches in the Middle East, Marcus Stoinis was sent in at No.3 on his return, with an uphill task for the all-rounder. Immediately, the Australian all-rounder struggled to get any sort of momentum in these conditions, with just three runs off his first five balls.
At the end of the powerplay phase, the 2020 IPL finalists Delhi, got themselves to just 38 runs for the loss of one wicket. In stark contrast to their returns in the powerplay from India, Delhi only scored at a run-rate of 7.4 in the Middle East, second-worst against 8.9 they scored in India.
Delhi’s frailties in the middle-overs exposed
In the UAE leg of IPL 2021, DC batsmen have scored at 6.7 in the middle overs, the joint lowest with SRH among all teams. In the same breath, KKR bowlers have conceded a boundary every 11.6 balls in the middle overs, the best by a bowling team. However, against Shakib Al Hasan, Stoinis managed to get right to the leather, striking a boundary over the cover region.
Despite possessing a plethora of batting options, on the bench and in the field, Delhi’s decision to promote Stoinis, came as a surprise and was also equally detrimental. In between overs 6-9, the Capitals scored just 17 runs. However, Dhawan brought Delhi back in the clash with a boundary against Varun, who was one of the best bowlers on the day but it was still their lowest total after 11 overs in the Middle East this season.
In the 12th over, however, Stoinis was sent back by a skiddy delivery from Shivam Mavi, with the Australian all-rounder heaving for the heaven. When Shreyas Iyer walked in, the hope immediately shifted back onto the Indian batsman to take Delhi to a respectable total. However, losing Dhawan at the other end combined with Rishabh Pant’s early dismissal put the Capitals in a spot of bother, at 92/4 after 16 overs.
Iyer combined with Shimron Hetmyer, to score 43 runs in the last four overs, including two 15-run overs to take the 2020 finalists to 135/5, a total that seemed just about par in conditions that were tough to bat, playing 45 dot deliveries in the process
KKR and the know-how in Sharjah
Unlike other sides, Kolkata Knight Riders know how to bat in Sharjah – get out aggressive in the powerplay and then build the innings as you proceed. While they did lose Shubman Gill in the powerplay against RCB, the two openers ensured that there was no hiccup in the powerplay, as they cornered every Delhi bowler to the short and long ends of the boundary.
Following the template that they have done throughout the second phase of the tournament, where they have struck at 132.4 in the first six overs. Barring the third over, the two Kolkata openers got a boundary every over. At the end of five overs, Kolkata were already at 42/0 before they ended with 51/0 at the end of the powerplay, which also was their highest score after powerplay in Sharjah this year.
In four innings together at Sharjah this season, Iyer and Gill have amassed 213 runs at an average of 71.7 with two 50+ partnerships.
Only if Delhi…
Lazy elegance? It doesn’t matter at the end of the day when Iyer continues to score runs for the Knight Riders. One of their weaker suits in the first half of this season has now turned into one of their stronger suits, with the inclusion of the Madhya Pradesh batsman, who continues to develop leap and bounds.
After three quiet overs, the left-handed opener came hunting down the ground, striking Ravichandran Ashwin well over the boundary rope for a massive six. He wasn’t done yet, with a boundary off Anrich Norjte’s over as Kolkata were closer to a famous win in the Middle East.
With just 48 runs needed from 54 deliveries, there wasn’t any sort of pressure on Kolkata’s batting order to get there in a hurry. In the next over, however, after having wrecked the Delhi bowling unit, Iyer walked back to the hut, for a 41-ball 55, with four boundaries and three sixes.
Two sixes in between Gill and Nitish Rana in the next two overs drew the Knights closer to yet another IPL final. However, two quick wickets – Rana and Gill – in the span of four balls put the game back into a fine mix. Despite the solid efforts from Kagiso Rabada and Avesh Khan, KKR just needed 10 runs from the last two overs.
A late dream, three wickets and 11 deliveries later, KKR still needed six runs off two balls to go to the final. And they did it, in their own fashion, with Tripathi smacking Ashwin for a straight six.
Brief Scores: Kolkata Knight Riders 136/7 (Venkatesh Iyer 55, Shubman Gill 46; Kagiso Rabada 2/23, Ravichandran Ashwin 2/27) beat Delhi Capitals 135/5 (Shikhar Dhawan 36, Shreyas Iyer 30; Varun Chakravarthy 2/26, Lockie Ferguson 1/26) by three wickets