The excitement in 7th edition of IPL continues and even when there are only four teams needing to complete the tally of their allotted 14 matches; it is amazing that the last play-off spot still remains uncertain. On Sunday, these last two league games will be played, out of which only one holds the importance. The most remarkable recovery in IPL-7 is credited to the Kolkata Knight Riders, who went from strength to strength after their miseries in the UAE leg. Sunrisers Hyderabad played with undying spirits and won some of their games with aplomb. In the games that they lost, they looked like winners for most part. For example, against KXIP, they set a 206-run target for Punjab but still lost to KXIP’s explosive batting. Another IPL-7 tale concerned Mumbai Indians, who made an amazing turnaround in winning their last three matches to remain in contention even now as they take on Rajasthan Royals in the last league game of IPL 2014 on May 25 at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium.
Until Saturday night, SRH had a chance to make a back-door entry in play-offs, when they began their last league game against KKR. Their chances rested on an outright victory with a big margin, while keeping one eye firmly fixated at the net run-rate. It was a truly classic T20 game, in which 321 runs were scored in 34.2 overs with the drama of dropped catches, missed run-outs, glorious sixes and a 15-ball fifty from Yusuf Pathan, whose poor form was a hot topic of discussion amongst KKR fans until few days back. Yesterday, KKR won the toss and asked SRH to bat. Though Hyderabad lost Warner early, Dhawan, Naman Ojha, Venugopal Rao and Sammy made useful contributions to post a total of 160/7. KKR began strongly with Uthappa and Gambhir once again producing a good first wicket stand. SRH gambled with Dale Styen bowling his first three overs on the trot but with Gambhir adopting an attacking stance, Styen and other SRH bowlers proved ineffective in power-play. When Sammy brought Jason Holder, Uthappa took 3 runs from his first two balls and Gambhir hoisted a six and hit a boundary off the next two, both of which were no balls. After Gambhir had taken another two, he succumbed to an inside edge off Holder’s fourth ball, which fell on his stumps. Manish Pandey joined Uthappa but the two could only add 12, before Pandey holed out to Sharma in the deep. In the same over, Sharma could also have got rid of Yusuf Pathan but Aniruddha Srikkanth dropped an absolute sitter. Holder came back for his third over and Uthappa and Pathan took 14 runs from him. It was Karn Sharma once again, who took his third wicket and a prized one at that. After Uthappa hit his first ball into the crowd, Sharma’s viciously spinning delivery didn’t allow Uthappa a proper hold and his lofted shot carried only to a fielder at long on. Now it all rested on Yusuf Pathan and his new companion Shakib Al Hasan to take KKR to safety. Sammy called Parvez Rasool but the bowler was blasted for 22 runs. The unlucky Rasool saw Styen missing a catch off a Pathan skier that went for six runs. A misfield by Holder on Rasool’s last ball added four more to Pathan’s score. Pathan got emboldened by lucky escapes and scored 16 off Sharma’s next over despite losing Shakib.
At this stage of the game, KKR needed to reach the target in 15.2 overs to dislodge CSK from second spot in the league table. This had looked difficult, when Pathan came as 106 were required of 47 balls. But Pathan was relentless and this showed in his treatment of world’s best bowler Dale Styen. It was SRH’s 13th over and Pathan dispatched Styen’s first ball for 4. The next one was lofted over mid-wicket for a huge six, bringing Pathan’s 50 in 15 balls, an IPL record. The third ball was sent into the delirious crowd for another big six. No one treats Styen like this but Pathan didn’t care as he collected 4, 4 and 2 off Styen’s last 3 balls. Pathan spoiled Styen’s figures by taking 26 runs from the bowler’s last over. Pathan fell in 14th over to the guile of Karn Sharma but not before he and his partner Surya Yadav had taken 12 runs from the bowler. It was easy for Yadav as only 7 runs were required when Bhuvi Kumar began the 15th over. Only three balls were bowled with the third being a wide. The wide ball brought victory for KKR since Yadav had lifted Kumar’s second ball into the crowd for a six. KKR achieved their target and displaced CSK from the no.2 spot.
On Sunday, the first match between KXIP and Delhi Daredevils will be an inconsequential affair. Punjab is placed on top with 10 victories from 13 matches, while DD languishes at bottom in losing 11 out of 13. But it will be a do-or-die-match for Rajasthan Royals and Mumbai Indians. The two teams have had a contrasting performance this year, with the Royals looking too good in earlier stages of IPL, while MI having chequered time. In the last 10 days, however, Royals have lost many matches while Mumbai have improved. In any case, the encounter between RR and MI promises to be a great treat for spectators and television viewers tomorrow.