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Quiet Knight Rises

Listless till the play-offs,Yusuf Pathan comes to the party with a 21-ball 40,to take KKR to their first-ever final

Two deliveries was all it took. The first – the last ball of Shakib Al Hasan’s first over – pitched on a good length outside David Warner’s off stump,spun back sharply and bounced off his thigh pad into Brendon McCullum’s gloves. Umpire Billy Doctrove gave it out,caught behind. Delhi Daredevils were one down for 24 in two overs.

The second — the first ball of Lakshmipathy Balaji’s first over — was short and just outside off stump. Virender Sehwag tried to cut,and edged it to McCullum. Delhi were two down for 24,and a long way from their target of 163.

At that point,the Delhi dugout must have wondered,collectively,how they had let Kolkata Knight Riders score so many runs. They might have also wondered whether going in with three genuine quicks,on a Subrata Roy Sahara stadium wicket that was now notorious for its utter lack of pace,had been a particularly good move.

During Delhi’s previous visit to Pune,their two best bowlers had been left-arm spinners Shahbaz Nadeem and Pawan Negi. Now,they left Nadeem out and played Varun Aaron,to complement their existing duo of express pacers,Morne Morkel and Umesh Yadav – who,in their last game at this venue,had returned combined figures of 8-0-74-1. Aaron was as quick as these two and potentially even more erratic.

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Sixteen overs into their innings,Kolkata were in a fairly dicey situation,at 106 for four. Kolkata had just lost Jacques Kallis,who had plodded his way to a 33-ball 30. They were missing Manoj Tiwary,out with a hamstring injury. Joining the out-of-form Yusuf Pathan at the crease,therefore,was Laxmi Ratan Shukla. The Bengal all-rounder had once been touted as the new Kapil Dev,but that was over a decade ago,and his international career had lasted a mere three ODIs. Some Kolkata fans may have preferred to see the old Kapil Dev,the 53-year-old Kapil Dev,walk in instead.

But Yusuf and Shukla it was. The fourth ball of the 17th over,bowled by Morkel,was in Yusuf’s preferred swinging zone,pitched just short of driving length and just outside off. A massive diagonal swish of his blade sent the ball whistling away down the ground for six.

Flurry of boundaries

This triggered an avalanche of boundaries. Both Umesh and Morkel tested the middle of the pitch against Shukla,but this may not have been the ideal pitch for such tests. The ball sat up on both occasions,and Shukla pulled authoritatively both times,once for four and once for six.

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Aaron returned for the final over,and seemed to have no control whatsoever over where he was landing it. Three full tosses went for four and a length ball to Pathan went for six,aided by Warner’s palms at long on. Twenty one came off that over,56 off the last four and 122 off the 12 bowled by Morkel,Umesh and Aaron. So 163 to win,it was,and Warner and Sehwag had both departed. Delhi were sinking fast. Sunil Narine was yet to bowl a ball.

But they still had Mahela Jayawardene. For a while,he and Naman Ojha batted well enough to suggest that the chase was back on track. They counterattacked with urgency,taking 15 off the fourth over,Jayawardene stepping inside the line to time Shakib gorgeously over cover for four before Ojha played the same shot,less elegantly,and followed it up with a big six over long off. Against the seamers,both batsmen employed the cut to superb effect,Jayawardene most eye-catchingly when he split backward point and short third man off Rajat Bhatia. The Sri Lankan skipper toyed with Iqbal Abdulla’s left-arm spin as well,chipping him back over his head and lap-sweeping him just out of the keeper’s reach.

But Abdulla had his revenge,getting Jayawardene out stumped. By then,Ojha too had left,and Delhi needed 55 from 32 balls. Narine,who had conceded only seven in his first two overs,still had two overs to bowl. In the end,his two wickets merely decorated the game — coming as they did in the last over,with Delhi already down and out — rather than influencing it. Not that he,or Kolkata,would have cared.

‘Lived up to expectations’

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Yusuf Pathan,who smashed a quickfire 21-ball 40 to help side reach a good total,said he was pleased to have lived up to the expectations of the team. Yusuf had a poor run before this match and had subsequently faced a lot of criticism. “There are always big hopes from me. I had not performed well in the previous games,but I know that I can get going in a big match,” he said after receiving man-of-the-match award. Yusuf said having enough overs to settle on the pitch helped him get his touch back. “I had a lot of time to get in and adjust myself to the track today. Now we are waiting for the big game. We will relax and await for it eagerly,” he said.

As the first chance to qualify for the IPL final slipped out of their hands,Delhi Daredevils skipper Virender Sehwag said the 163-run target was very much chase-able but that his batting unit simply failed to click. “We did not bat well,160 was chase-able. The required batting effort was just not there. We lost two early wickets and failed to make it in the last few overs,” Sehwag said. He however defended the strategy of playing with four seamers on a wicket that provided plenty of assistance to spinners. “Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav have bowled brilliantly for me. I cannot sit them out. It was a tough choice but we thought that the grass might help.”

First published on: 23-05-2012 at 01:12:26 am
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