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The Kolkata Knight Riders led by Delhi opener Gautam Gambhir made it through to the final of the IPL for the first time in their franchise history by beating the table toppers in the league phase, the Delhi Daredevils, by a handsome margin of 18 runs in Pune on Tuesday. After electing to bat first, Kolkata made use of the extra pace in the Delhi attack to post a formidable 162/4 on the board thanks to a late overs onslaught from Yusuf Pathan (40*) and Laxmi Shukla (24*). Delhi's chase was rocked early by the dismissal of their star openers Virender Sehwag and David Warner, and despite a valiant effort from Mahela Jayawardene (40) it was all too difficult for the Delhi men who lost out on direct passage to the final.
The first qualifier game for a place in the Final of the DLF IPL 2012 between the top two teams in the group stages, the Delhi Daredevils and the Kolkata Knight Riders got underway at the Subrata Roy Sahara stadium in Pune on a pleasant Tuesday night amidst a near full house. On a wicket which was on the drier side, the KKR captain Gautam Gambhir won the toss and chose to bat without any hesitation. KKR made one change to their side from their previous game at this very venue with Laxmi Ratan Shukla coming in for Manoj Tiwary, Delhi welcomed back their superstars Virender Sehwag and Ross Taylor in place of Unmukt Chand and Andre Russell respectively.
The KKR openers Gautam Gambhir and Brendon McCullum made a conscious effort to take the attack to the Delhi pacers early on. McCullum stepped out to the likes of Morne Morkel and Irfan Pathan but didn't quite succeed while Gambhir was striking the ball sweetly. The classy left hander hit two hook shots for six off Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron, and backed them up with some fine drives on the off side to get KKR off to a very good start. Just as Gambhir was threatening to take the game away from Delhi, he was run out for 32 attempting a tight single to mid-on where Venugopal Rao threw the stumps down with the batsman inches short. At the end of the powerplay KKR were still in a good position at 48/1.
The wicket of Gambhir stemmed the flow of runs considerably for KKR. The wicket started to take some turn too straight away as left armer Pawan Negi got the ball to rip right from his first over. Kallis, who walked in at No.3, looked to be positive but wasn't quite able to get the ball away and he was given a reprieve too in the 10th over when Irfan Pathan missed a caught and bowled chance. At the 11 over mark Delhi had pulled things back restricting KKR to just 71/1.
The innings further slipped thereafter as Delhi strangled the KKR batsmen with both spin and pace. Looking to up the ante McCullum fell in the 13th over, caught at point after mishitting a heave off Negi. Shakib Al Hasan who was promoted to No.4 disappointed as he perished for 1 in the very next over caught behind off Irfan Pathan. Kallis scored a couple of crucial boundaries to increase the run rate but fell, caught at deep square leg for 30 off a short one from Umesh Yadav as KKR scrambled to 106/4 after 16 overs.
The last four overs saw some splendid batting from the KKR middle order, helping them post a formidable total. The big hitting Yusuf Pathan came to the party after being out of nick for the entire tournament and with the help of a fantastic cameo from Laxmi Shukla, scored big runs at the death. The lanky player from Baroda struck the ball cleanly down the ground and hit 2 sixes coupled with several boundaries in the last 4 overs. Shukla too matched him shot for shot in his cameo of 24* from 11 balls as he took on the South Africa speedster Morne Morkel carting him for runs square of the wicket on both sides. The last two overs from Morkel and Aaron cost Delhi 36 runs thanks to this fearless and skilled hitting from Pathan and Shukla, which may well have turned this game in KKR's favour. After 20 overs KKR made an excellent 162/4 giving the Delhi batsmen plenty to make on this turning wicket against a spin heavy attack.
The Delhi Daredevils' openers David Warner and Virender Sehwag attempted to take on the KKR attack with the new ball and it backfired. The dynamic duo managed to get 24 off the first 11 balls before Shakib Al Hasan got a lucky break through, after the umpire adjudged Warner caught behind for 7. The innings was further set back as Laxmipathy Balaji got the prized wicket of Sehwag(10) the very next over, caught behind off a faint edge.
Those two big blows brought the less adventurous Naman Ojha and Mahela Jayawardene to the wicket who steadied the ship for the Daredevils. Ojha attacked Shakib and scored 15 off the 5th over hitting him well down the ground to ease the pressure. Jayawardene was cool at the other end happy to play secomd fiddle and get used to the conditions. Ojha was at sea against Sunil Narine but hit back again, scoring off Rajat Bhatia to keep the scoreboard ticking over. After 9 overs, DD recovered well to post 73/2, still in with more than a chance to make the target.
The class of Mahela Jayawardene came to the fore when the situation demanded as the Lankan skipper took charge of the situation. He played some deft late cuts to the fence couple before playing authentically down the ground with a straight bat. He maneuvered the field cleverly by sweeping fine off the spinners too. Just when the Ojha - Jayawardene partnership looked set to take Delhi home, Ojha (28) hit a long hop from Bhatia straight to point to give KKR the edge back.
Jayawardene though kept going and added 25 with Venugopal Rao who came in at No.5 before a lapse in concentration cost Delhi dearly. Mahela(40) stepped out prematurely to Iqbal Abdulla and was stumped on the second grab by McCullum much to the delight of the KKR fans. With 4 overs to go KKR were in charge with Delhi on 117/4 needing a further 46 with Sunil Narine still having 2 overs up his sleeve.
The ploy of keeping Ross Taylor for the end by promoting Pawan Negi to No.6 backfired as Negi and Venugopal Rao failed to keep up to the required rate. Jacques Kallis bowled a very clever 17th over conceding just 3 runs and picking up the wicket of Venu for just 13 off 22 balls, thereby making the equation even more difficult for Delhi, who needed 43 off the last 3 overs. Ross Taylor hit a huge six over his favourite deep mid-wicket region off Narine in the 18th over to keep Delhi in with a chance. It was all a little too much to do even for Taylor as Jacques Kallis kept him down to just 3 off the first 4 balls before having him caught at deep square leg. The penultimate over went for just 7 which meant Delhi needed 26 off the final over from Narine. The mystery West Indian kept the over down to another 7 and picked up two wickets to wrap up a comfortable win for KKR.
An all round display in a crunch qualifier game by the Kolkata Knight Riders helped them upstage the mighty Delhi Daredevils in Pune to reach the final to be played on the 27th of this month in Chennai. All is not lost for Delhi though as they will play the winner of the eliminator match between Mumbai and Chennai on the 25th to take a second shot at making the final.
Delhi : V Sehwag, D Warner, M Jayawardene, R Taylor, N Ojha, V Rao, I Pathan, P Negi, M Morkel, U Yadav, V Aaron.
Kolkata: G Gambhir, B McCullum, J Kallis, M Tiwary, Y Pathan, D Das, S Al Hasan, R Bhatia, I Abdullah, S Narine, L Balaji
KKR 162/4 ( 20 overs, 8.1 rpo)
Y Pathan 40*(21) P Negi 1/18
G Gambhir 32(16) I Pathan 1/20
DD144/8 (20 overs, 7.2 rpo)
M Jayawardene 40(33) J Kallis 2/24
N Ojha 29(28) S Narine 2/24
KKR win by 18 runs
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