DUBAI: Rahul Tripathi hit a six off the penultimate ball Wednesday to see Kolkata Knight Riders to victory over Delhi Capitals and into the Indian Premier League final.
On a night of heartache, Delhi topped the eight team table but failed to reach the final despite a late comeback when they took four Kolkata wickets in 10 balls including England captain Eoin Morgan.
As the chase for Delhi’s 135 for five became increasingly desparate, Tripathi hit the ball over the boundary to lead Kolkata to victory in Sharjah with 135 for seven and just one ball to spare.
The Kolkata players erupted in joy. They were fourth in the table but still reached the final after beating Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore and now Delhi in the playoffs.
“We are delighted to get over the line,” said Morgan.
“We are in the entertainment business and needed to play some entertaining cricket. Six off two and you would say the odds are for the bowling side. But Tripathi has done it for us so many times.”
Morgan said his team would “dissect” the nervy finish before they play three-time champions Chennai Super Kings in the final on Friday.
“It should’ve been a lot easier after the start we got,” he admitted.
Kolkata bowled brilliantly to restrict Delhi’s normally aggressive batting line up.
Varun Chakravarty claimed the key wickets of openers Prithvi Shaw and top scorer Shikhar Dhawan whose 36 off 39 balls gave Delhi a hope of putting up a competitive score.
But Chakravarty who gave away just 26 runs, fellow pacer Lockie Ferguson who also conceded only 26, smothered the Delhi batters.
Marcus Stoinis hit 18 before he was bowled by Shivam Mari and Shimron Hetmyer made 17 off 10 balls, including two lusty sixes, but no one could build the crucial big partnership with Dhawan.
Kolkata seemed to be strolling to victory when Shubman Gill (46) and Venkatesh Iyer (55) put on 96 for the first wicket.
But after they went only Nitish Rana (13) and Tripathi (12) managed to score.
Wicketkeeper Dinesh Khartik, Morgan, Bangladesh star Shakib Al Hasan and Sunil Narine all went for ducks in a dramatic final three overs.
Ravichandran Ashwin took two wickets in consecutive balls in the 20th over but Tripathi hit the winning six on the hat-trick ball to secure the win.
“The win for the team was very important,” said Tripathi. “We had one or two tough overs and I never thought it would go so deep.”
Delhi captain Rishabh Pant fought back tears after the game.
“I don’t have words to express at the moment,” he said.
“We just kept believing and tried to stay in the game as long as possible.
“The bowlers nearly pulled it back, but it’s unfortunate that it didn’t go our way.
“They bowled very well in the middle-overs, we got stuck and couldn’t rotate strike. Delhi Capitals are known to be positive and hopefully we’ll come back better next season.”
Winning five of their last seven games, Kolkata put on an extraordinary resurgence in the second half of the IPL — switched to the United Arab Emirates as a coronavirus precaution — to reach the final.
Morgan said the win had been “a nice insight into our team culture — the young guys coming in feel free to express themselves” and now there are “expectations” around the squad going into the final.
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