On a day in which political tensions between West Bengal and the country's capital was a focal point for the media, the team from Kolkata put one over Delhi Daredevils to book a maiden IPL final for Kolkata Knight Riders. KKR looked out of sorts until Yusuf Pathan and Laxmi Ratan Shukla injected 56 runs in four overs to set Delhi a target of 163, which proved too much for a muddled line-up in Pune. With the ball, Jacques Kallis and Sunil Narine were exemplary to help secure an 18-run win.
Delhi, winners of last year's wooden spoon, had topped the league stage to reach this far but they suffered a clear bout of vertigo. Most glaring was their decision to hold back Ross Taylor to No. 6; when he walked out the team needed 43 from 19 balls and it proved way too much.
Having opted to bat first, Gautam Gambhir got Kolkata off to a brisk start, using his feet well to the quick bowlers. He repeatedly walked down the track to carve the ball through and over the offside, and there were also two pulled sixes in his 16-ball 32. A moment of madness – he and Brendon McCullum had been frenetic in their running – saw Gambhir caught marginally short of his crease.
McCullum and Kallis couldn't get any sort of momentum going after the Gambhir dismissal in the sixth over, only 33 runs coming in the next six overs. With Pawan Negi and Irfan Pathan checking the flow of runs, KKR stumbled. McCullum's painful 36-ball 31 came to an end when he slashed Negi to point, Shakib Al Hasan came and went for 1 and Kallis' first big shot found the man at deep midwicket. When Yusuf walked out after 13.4 overs, Kolkata had plodded along to 91 for 3. He hurtled to a 21-ball 40 which nearly doubled their total by the end. Playing a fine hand in a match-winning stand was Shukla, who slammed 24 off 11 balls.
Yusuf wasn't away in a hurry – he took ten runs off his first ten balls faced – but freed his arms in the 17th over with a six off Morne Morkel. A four followed off Umesh Yadav before Shukla gave KKR the desired momentum by hitting Morkel for four and six in the penultimate over. The real damage came in the final over.
Varun Aaron had sent down three overs for 27 but Yusuf messed up his figures a six and three fours off his final three balls. He smashed a flat six to long-on where David Warner misjudged a catch and then slapped the next ball though extra cover and flicked the final to deep square leg. The 20th over went for 21 runs, allowing KKR to finish on 162 for 4. They scored 36 off the last two overs, and it proved massive.
Delhi's slide began in the second over of their chase, when Warner was incorrectly given caught behind off Shakib by Billy Doctrove (replays showed that the ball hit the pads and not bat). While Warner had the right to blame fate for his dismissal, Virender Sehwag had only himself to blame for his departure. One ball after Warner's exit, Sehwag threw his bat at a wide ball and nicked to McCullum.
Then Jayawardene and Ojha hit 22 off the next 12 balls. Jayawardene made room and hit Shakib for four over extra cover before Ojha repeated the shot and lifted a fuller one down the ground for six. Narine was taken off after bowling a two-run over, and Ojha and Jayawardene proceeded to pick runs off the rest. Rajat Bhatia, bowling his slow-medium stuff, was taken for two boundaries in the ninth over by Ojha while Jayawardene deftly cut and lofted Iqbal Abdulla for fours. After ten overs Delhi were 83 for 2 in contrast to Kolkata, who were 68 for 1 at the same stage.
Ojha fell in the 11th over, hitting Bhatia straight to Gambhir at point. By then the required run rate had crept above eight an over and it continued to escalate with the exit of Jayawardene, stumped for 40 off Abdulla. Delhi's decision to send in Venugopal Rao at No. 5 instead of Taylor was hard to fathom, as the batsman ate up 22 balls for 13 runs before he miscued one into the covers off Kallis.
Taylor failed to connect apart from one big six off Narine. Kallis slipped in two dot balls before he got Taylor to clip to deep square leg in an outstanding 19th over that left the equation at 26 from six balls, but Delhi never got close. Narine gave up just seven runs while taking two wickets.
Delhi have another shot at joining Kolkata in the final on April 27, but will have to play much, much better than they did today.