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IPL 2024: To Chennai, onward march Kolkata Knight Riders by beating Sunrisers Hyderabad by 8 wickets

Shreyas & Venkatesh strike unbeaten fifties after Starc’s demolition job crushes Sunrisers

Sayak Banerjee Ahmedabad Published 22.05.24, 09:48 AM
Venkatesh Iyer and Shreyas Iyer during their unbeaten97-run partnership on Tuesday

Venkatesh Iyer and Shreyas Iyer during their unbeaten97-run partnership on Tuesday Picture courtesy IPL  

When the occasion demands, big-match players show their class. That’s exactly what Mitchell Starc did at the Narendra Modi Stadium on Tuesday.

Starc’s duel with his Australia teammate Travis Head was one of the match-ups that was thought to be crucial in terms of what the outcome of Qualifier 1 would be. The left-arm speedster, in just the second ball of the game, rattled Head’s stumps and took 3/22 in his first spell of three overs, which was central to the Kolkata Knight Riders hammering Sunrisers Hyderabad by eight wickets to reach the IPL final for the fourth time.

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The Sunrisers will now play the Qualifier 2 in Chennai on Friday against the winners of Wednesday’s Eliminator between Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bengaluru.

No doubt, Starc’s first spell, which was key to restricting the Sunrisers to 159 in 19.3 overs, was massive in terms of setting the game up for the Knight Riders. Chasing 160 on this pitch was never going to be tough, and KKR’s new opening pair of Rahmanullah Gurbaz (23 off 14 balls), in his first appearance this year as Phil Salt’s replacement, and Sunil Narine (21 off 16 balls) helped them race to 44 in the fourth over.

With the foundation laid, Venkatesh Iyer (51 not out off 28 balls) and captain Shreyas Iyer (unbeaten on 58 off 24 balls) made merry with strokes on both sides of the wicket against an attack that looked even more helpless following the capitulation of their batting group.

Head, after back-to-back ducks, also dropped a sitter at point when Shreyas was on 14. That kind of summed up the night for the Sunrisers. Adding insult to injury, Shreyas clobbered Head’s part-time off-spin for three sixes and a four as the Knights romped home with 38 balls remaining.

Earlier, working up good pace with bounce, Starc got the ball to move and got his line right for most part of that first spell which put the Knight Riders right on top. The Sunrisers were left reeling at 39/4 in five overs. The 75,000-plus turnout, along with KKR principal owner Shah Rukh Khan who was in one of the corporate boxes of the stadium, couldn’t stop applauding the brilliance of Starc.

Despite Head’s amazing str­oke-making ability and hand-eye coordination, he does have a problem against the moving ball as his feet don’t move much. Most recently, Arshdeep Singh had cleaned the left-hander up in Hyderabad. Why would Starc be left behind? With a fair bit of pace and away swing, Starc castled Head as the latter attempted an aerial drive.

Young Nitish Kumar Reddy, who has otherwise been impressive in this IPL, wasn’t looking comfortable before Starc and eventually miscued one to depart. Off the very
next ball, Bengal all-rounder Shahbaz Ahmed appeared clueless before Starc’s pace and could only play the ball back onto his stumps.

“Starc was unbelievable today (Tuesday) with the way he bowled. With his experience, he knows how to manage the big games. He was totally different in this game than what he was in the previous ones,” keeper-batter Gurbaz said.

What also augured well for the Knights was Head’s opening partner Abhishek Sharma departing only for four, falling off the bowling of pacer Vaibhav Arora.

All the Knights’ bowlers were amongst wickets, with leading wicket-taker Varun Chakravarthy striking twice and taking his wicket tally to 20 in the tournament.

If Starc had dented the Sunrisers in the Powerplay, Varun (2/26) took care of the middle overs for the Knight Riders.

Importantly, Varun took the important wicket of Heinrich Klaasen (32 off 21 balls) at a critical phase. Klaasen and Rahul Tripathi (55 off 35 balls), Sunrisers’ top scorer, had put up a fair resistance to slowly drag their side back into the contest. With Tripathi solid at one end, Klaasen was also making Sunil Narine look ordinary.

The Sunrisers’ scoring rate had gone above nine in the 11th over before Varun varied his length just a bit as Klaasen perished at the deep.

Losing a well-set Klaasen, the Sunrisers slipped to 126/9 in 16 overs. That may not have happened if not for Andre Russell’s excellent work at backward point that ran Tripathi out.

The Knights had a fantastic opportunity then to polish the Sunrisers off within 130, but rival captain Pat Cummins braved their attack with a determined 30 not out off 24 balls.

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