Team Kolkata have made it to their third Indian T20 League final after defeating Team Delhi in qualifier 2 of the 2021 edition in the United Arab Emirates. Batting first, Delhi struggled to put up a big total on the tricky Sharjah surface. With the help of Shikhar Dhawan and Shreyas Iyer, both of whom scored in 30s, Delhi put up 135 runs on the board. In reply, a half-century from Venkatesh Iyer and a six off the second last ball from Rahul Tripathi took Kolkata over the line with a ball to spare. Let us take a look at the talking points from the game.
Venkatesh Iyer scores his third 50
So impressive has Iyer been this season, that Twitter is debating if any uncapped player has performed better than him in his first Indian T20 league season. Since the resumption of the tournament in the UAE, Iyer has played a significant role in Kolkata’s remarkable turnaround after winning just two games in the first leg. Iyer scored his third fifty of the season in the qualifier 2 and was the standout performer among both the teams. He scored 55 off 41 balls with the help of four 4s and three 6s to take his tally of runs to 320 in nine matches. He now averages 40 and Kolkata will be hoping that Iyer produces yet another sensational knock in the final against Team Chennai.
Shubman Gill continues to impress
Iyer’s opening partner Shubman Gill looked off colour in a few games midway through the league stage before returning to form at the right time. In the Qualifier 2, Gill narrowly missed out on his third fifty in three games after being sent back on 46 by Avesh Khan. Although his knock came at a strike rate of only 100, he played a perfect second fiddle to Iyer, who found the boundary seven times. The two shared a 95-run partnership for the first wicket, which laid the foundation for Kolkata’s entry into the finals. Gill and Iyer seemed to have complemented well at the top and would be looking for another match-winning partnership on October 15.
A dramatic end
As many as six wickets fell for seven runs in the last 24 deliveries of Kolkata’s innings, making the game one of the most dramatic of all time. After being 123 for 1 in the 16th over, it all went downhill for Kolkata. Needing 13 in 25 balls, the side lost six wickets for seven runs in 3.5 overs. Six runs were needed off the last two balls and Rahul Tripathi sent the ball out of the park in the second last ball to take Kolkata over the line. So poor was the collapse that four batsmen departed for a duck – Eoin Morgan, Dinesh Karthik, Shakib Al Hasan and Sunil Narine, while Lockie Ferguson remained unbeaten on zero.
Kolkata’s remarkable turnaround in the second leg
After winning just two games in the first leg and being down in seventh place, not many would have expected Kolkata to make it to the finals. In the UAE leg, they won five league games before defeating Bangalore in the eliminator and then Delhi in the qualifier 2. While Venkatesh Iyer has been their standout performer, Kolkata’s bowlers have also been impressive, especially in Sharjah, where the pitch has offered them assistance. Sunil Narine and Varun Chakravarthy made the best of the pitch’s assistance.
Kolkata, who won the title in 2012 and 2014 under the captaincy of Gautam Gambhir, will be playing their first final in six years. They will take on Chennai in Dubai on October 15.
A season to remember and forget for Eoin Morgan
When Kolkata underperformed in the first leg, many demanded that Eoin Morgan should be removed from captaincy and former captain Dinesh Karthik should be handed over the role again. But with the team making it to the final, questions on Morgan’s calibre as a captain have been put to rest. As a batsman, however, Morgan has had a season to forget. The middle order batsman has scored a mere 129 runs from 16 matches and has an average of only 11.72. Morgan has only one double digit score in his last eight outings, but stands a chance to redeem himself in the final.
Andre Russell continues to warm the bench
While Kolkata have managed to win matches without their trump card Andre Russell, they will be expecting him to be fit for the final. The explosive all-rounder has warmed the bench since being injured in the match against Chennai on September 28. Morgan revealed ahead of Qualifier 2 that Russell has a Grade 2 hamstring tear and is working hard with the medical team to play in the match. While Russell was not a part of the XI, Kolkata will be hoping for positive news from the medical team in another day and a half.
Delhi’s game in a nutshell
Delhi lost their first wicket for 32 runs after Prithvi Shaw was sent back for 18 off 12 in the first ball of the fourth over. Shikhar Dhawan scored 36 off 39, while Marcus Stoinis took 23 balls to score 18. Shreyas Iyer managed an unbeaten 30 off 27, before Rishabh Pant, Shimron Hetmyer and Axar Patel collectively managed 26 runs. From among their bowlers, Anrich Nortje, Ravi Ashwin and Kagiso Rabada picked two wickets each.
Delhi lose two in two
Known as the perennial underperformers until last year, Delhi entered the top four only six times in 14 years. They reached the finals in 2020 but lost the trophy to Mumbai, who won their fifth silverware. Delhi topped the points table and got two chances to make it to the final, but faltered in both the games.
Shikhar Dhawan was their best performer and he ends the season with 551 runs at an average and strike rate of 39.13 and 124.62. In the bowling department, Avesh Khan impressed with 24 wickets in 16 matches.