Jacques Kallis is a walker. Long before umpire Anil Chaudhary’s finger went up, Kallis had folded his bat under his arm and begun his sideways headshake. Caught behind in Shane Watson’s very first over on Tuesday, the South African was gone for one in a tight chase. But just as he drifted past a celebrating Rajasthan Royals huddle, the KKR batsman was asked by the umpire to hold on to his walking.
A front-foot no ball had ensured that the walker would now walk back to his batting crease. And everything would go back to just the way it was before.
This would be the story of the innings and the match. Just when Rajasthan Royals looked to be running away with the defence of their total of 152, KKR were called back into it. And just when the Kolkata side seemed to have honed in on their target thanks to the improvisations of Shakib Al Hasan and Suryakumar Yadav, Rajasthan’s James Faulkner struck three times in the penultimate over to ensure that no one was going to walk away from the Abu Dhabi Stadium early. The match had gone into a Super Over.
Even that would end on a ‘tie’, but more on that later.
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Back to the Kallis moment in regular time. Early in their tricky chase of 153, this was just the reprieve that the Kolkata Knight Riders — a team firmly wedged in the season seven’s mid-table — needed. Kallis was perhaps told that during the mid-pitch meeting that followed with his batting partner, Gautam Gambhir. At this point, half way through the fifth over of the chase, KKR captain Gambhir was batting on 24 – 23 runs more than he had made than in his previous four innings put together. For Gambhir, getting off binary digits and on to a start, coupled with Kallis’s recall at the other end, were signs of things to come.
All the pair had to do, now, was make full use of their respective getaways.
Only, Kallis was dismissed shortly after, for 13 in the ninth over. Then, a few overs later, Gambhir departed for a slugglish, run-a-ball 44. And this was the story of KKR’s innings. Just when luck took an upswing for the 2012 champions, they managed to botch it up. This trend held through right through the course of the innings, so much so that even when Manish Pandey, the first Indian centurion in the IPL, hit the side’s first six in the 13th over and followed it up with a boundary, he found a way to get out the following ball – LBW to Pravin Tambe for 19.
But what must have really made the KKR fans bleed was the climax of the chase. Here, Rajasthan looked like they had put it beyond the opposition’s reach when KKR needed 42 from just four overs.
But Suryakumar Yadav, who proved he could bat during KKR’s loss to Punjab in the previous match, was doing it all over again. Quite like when he twice flicked Mitchell Johnson for six, Yadav deposited a Watson off-cutter into the deep square-leg stand. Then next ball, an outside edge went for four more.
Fifteen had come off the Watson over, the 17th of the innings. And 10 more would arrive from the 18th (mainly due to a swinging Shakib) bowled by Kane Richardson. Now KKR needed just 16 runs from the last two overs, with two set batsmen at the crease. Only a miracle or an implosion could stop them now.
The latter happened.
Off Faulkner’s first ball, Yadav holed out. Off the fourth, Robin Uthappa (batting at number 7) was bowled around his legs first ball. And off the fifth, R Vinay Kumar couldn’t help his furniture from being disturbed either. Faulkner, the birthday boy, was gifting Rajasthan a most special win. But Shakib wasn’t done yet.
The Bangladeshi all-rounder smacked Richardon for a four off the first ball of the last over to reduce the equation to 8 from 5. It would have been 6 from 4 had Shakib not refused a double from the following ball even as Piyush Chawla nearly ran the length of the pitch three times before he was run out. With 3 required off the last ball, Shakib ran his only double of the game to push the match into a Super Over.
BLOCK TO WIN
Before and after Pandey’s six over long-on off Faulkner from the fourth ball, precious little good happened for KKR. It began and ended with a run-out – Yadav off the first ball and Shakib off the sixth. But the real drama in the one-over-eliminator unfolded during RR’s chase of 12 runs. And it occured off the very last ball.
With three runs to win off one ball, Gambhir spread his fielders out, challenging Steven Smith to clear the ground to claim the match. But Smith, ever thinking on his feet, blocked the ball to the vacant cover region and ran two. The scores were tied but Rajasthan won on having hit more boundaries during regular time. Ironic, considering the win on boundary-count arrived with a dead bat.