1. KKR were the favourites: Sunrisers Hyderabad may have been the table toppers, but the favourites were firmly Kolkata Knight Riders. For one, the momentum was with KKR, which had just won 4 matches in-a-row as against SRH which lost four in a row.
Then there’s Eden Gardens Kolkata which is a near invincible den for KKR. Both RR and SRH are poor performers in Eden Gardens and we saw the way RR perished in the Eliminator. Again, crunch matches are a different ball game from the leagues.
SRH reached the playoffs on the basis of their bowling alone and that’s quite dicey if it falls apart as against Chennai Super Kings which was an all-round fighting unit which prevailed. That way KKR is much more balanced than SRH. KKR started well winning the toss and made one team change as against three for SRH. However by the end of the match, the tables had turned!
2. From one wicket-keeper to another: MS Dhoni is by far the most successful wicket-keeper batsman in IPL though Dinesh Karthik is running him close. Well, Kane Williamson decided to spring a surprise wicket-keeper opener in the form of Wridhimman Saha.
In the very third over, Saha mistimed a shot and sent it sky high. Karthik had all the time in the world to catch the Team India wicket-keeper but he totally misjudged. He made a valiant dive and couldn’t even reach the ball! Saha 1. Karthik 0.
Then in a brilliant piece of wicket-keeping, Karthik stumped Saha by a mile. Or did he? Viewers were shocked to see Saha hold his ground and there was a doubt as to whether the bails were broken by the gloves without the ball. It was legal. Saha went for 35(27) just when he looked to accelerate. Saha 1. Karthik 1.
3. 1159 runs gone in 5 balls: SRH. Fantastic bowling. Bad fielding. Weak batting propped up by the powerhouse duo of Williamson (688 runs this season) and Shikhar Dhawan (471). These two had propped up SRH on many an occasion and had three century partnerships including an unbeaten one of 176 with Delhi Daredevils.
But then Kuldeep Yadav is also in the form of his life. In his very first ball of the match he trapped Dhawan plumb before the wicket. Dhawan had hit a six and four fours and was looking dangerous. Then in his fifth ball, he got Williamson! 1159 runs gone in 5 balls! Kuldeep wasn’t done yet and affected a run out too.
4. All hail the (Rashid) Khan: SRH didn’t collapse and didn’t get going either till Rashid Khan walked in. At that stage, SRH were 134/6 in 17.5 overs and were looking to fold over. Then Khan went berserk and hit 34 runs in just 10 balls, including four sixes. The target suddenly became 175, quite competitive for a knockout match!
Prasidh Krishna is generally reliable and gave 32 runs in his first three overs. Then he gave 24 runs in the last maniac over! Krishna’s final economy rate was an abysmal 14 while Khan’s batting strike rate was 340.
5. The spinners probably prevented a 200: Kuldeep, Piyush Chawla and Sunil Narine have close to 50 wickets between them in IPL 2018 and one must say they prevented a 200. Narine went for a measly 6 runs an over while both Chawla and Kuldeep kept their economy rates below 7.5. The faster bowlers let the match slip away.
6. A start of some Lynn-sanity: When Rashid Khan was going berserk, the IPL screen proclaimed: Khan-tastic! When Chris Lynn started hitting, it was Lynn-sanity. One must say that KKR sure did get a flying start. The top 3 batsmen for KKR came good—Lynn 48(31), Sunil Narine 26(13) and Nitish Rana 22(16). There was a stage when the current run rate was way ahead of the required rate. KKR also has a record of chasing big scores in crunch matches.
7. Khan-tastic Part 2: Usually some people are fated to do everything right on a particular day no matter what. If Khan could do no wrong with the bat, he could do no wrong with the ball too. He got the crucial wickets of Lynn, Robin Uthappa and Andre Russell, all three big hitters. Any one of them could have won the match for KKR.
If that wasn’t enough then he helped run out Rana and took the catches of Shubman Gill and Shivam Mavi! Khan ruled with the bat. Khan ruled with the ball. Khan ruled in the field. Shah Rukh Khan, eat your heart out! Today there was only one King Khan. You can be sure that there will be a bidding war for Rashid Khan at the IPL 2019 auction.
8. At the end of the 19th over: Despite the tremendous Khan performance, KKR came ever so close! At the end of the 19th over, SRH was 150. At the end of the 19th over, KKR was 156. So that one final over made all the difference in the end.
9. Will Rashid get the Purple Cap? While Rashid was slowly chipping away with the wickets throughout the tournament, he was hardly a household name. But now he has 21 wickets, three shy of Purple Cap holder Andrew Tye. Can he pick up those 3 wickets in the final? Incidentally his team-mate Siddharth Kaul also has 24 wickets. If one of them gets the Purple Cap and Williamson gets the Orange Cap and SRH the title—that would be some hat-trick!
10. The pressure is now on CSK: I had written that CSK and Dhoni have now lost three finals in a row, so the pressure will be firmly on them, no matter what most people say. (No-one talks about Dhoni's 'final' problem) SRH has the momentum, Williamson-Dhawan are in fine batting form while Khan-Kaul are on fire. Khan has also proved to be the X-factor.
It promises to be one cracker of a final then!
Either Mumbai Indians and CSK will have three titles each.
Or SRH, CSK and KKR will have two titles each!
Also by the author this IPL season:
KKR vs RR IPL Eliminator: Top 10 Talking Points
SRH vs CSK roller-coaster: Top 10 Talking Points
Thala Dhoni roars his 2019 intent in style
Surprising but successful moves & misses of IPL 2018
IPL Snippets: The battle of the spouses
IPL Winners: Is it all about the power of owners?
IPL Snippets: Thala Dhoni - Injured, old, but fighting fit!
Who will be the greatest ever IPL captain after 2018
IPL Snippets: Will this 'ring' help Virat Kohli break title duck?