Kolkata Knight Riders almost snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, and losing this game from 125/2 after 16.3 overs would have been unpardonable. They were chasing 136 for victory, but as Shubman Gill departed, wickets tumbled and dot balls piled up. Dinesh Karthik, Eoin Morgan, Shakib Al Hasan and Sunil Narine returned to the dug-out without opening their account.
With seven runs needed off the final over, DC captain Rishabh Pant picked his most experienced bowler, Ravichandran Ashwin. Until then, the senior off-spinner had been overshadowed by his KKR counterpart Varun Chakravarthy. As the now-or-never moment arrived, Ashwin rose to the occasion, dismissing Shakib and Narine in successive balls. KKR chief executive Venky Mysore held his head in his hands, while to paraphrase Tony Greig, DC fans danced in the aisles in Sharjah.
And yet, KKR were just one big hit away from victory and Rahul Tripathi delivered that to secure a three-wicket win in the Qualifier 2, with one ball remaining, to take his team to the final.
Against a bunch of individual also-rans, DC boasted international pedigree. They surrendered to the collective strength of KKR, Tripathi’s match-winning six epitomising it. Before him, Gill and Venkatesh Iyer put on 96 runs for the opening wicket, which eventually proved to be the difference. Iyer’s countering of Ashwin attested his cricketing intelligence. The latter had just moved the deep square-leg fielder towards deep mid-wicket before going low-arm, outside the off-stump. Iyer swept it finer, through the vacant region for a four. Square-of-the-wicket, though, wasn’t his go-to area. During his 41-ball 55, the left-hander mostly tried to play straight before his dismissal to a pull. The opener wasn’t afraid of charging down the pitch against Kagiso Rabada. His reading of Ashwin was superb. Without his 320 runs in matches, KKR wouldn’t have had this turnaround.