Indian T20 League: Tripathi holds nerve as Kolkata reach final

Kolkata overcame a meltdown to beat Delhi by three wickets and seal their place in the Indian T20 League final for the first time since 2014. Chasing a modest 136, the two-time winners were just 13 runs away from the victory with nine wickets in hand. However, Delhi pace bowlers turned the game on its head in the space of three overs. Kolkata, who lost four wickets, found themselves needing seven runs off the last over.

Ravichandran Ashwin sent Shakib Al Hasan and Sunil Narine back to the pavilion in successive deliveries. With six runs required from two balls, Rahul Tripathi hammered the ball over the ropes to clinch the victory for Kolkata, who had Dinesh Karthik, their captain Eoin Morgan, Shakib, and Narine depart without scoring. Shubman Gill and Venkatesh Iyer put together 96 runs for the opening wicket. The left-handed batsman registered his third Indian T20 League fifty, while Gill scored a run-a-ball 46, which helped him overtake Tripathi as the leading run-scorer for Kolkata this season.

Earlier in the match, Delhi lost their way after making an excellent start. Australia’s Marcus Stoinis, returning from a hamstring injury, and Shikhar Dhawan added 39 for the second wicket. However, the dismissals of Dhawan and Rishabh Pant in quick succession affected the scoring rate. A 10-ball 17 from Shimron Hetmyer and an unbeaten 30 from Shreyas Iyer steered the Delhi outfit to a decent total. The table-toppers managed to score only 70 runs in the last ten overs. Varun Chakravarthy picked up two wickets, and Shivam Mavi and Lockie Ferguson grabbed one each.

Venkatesh, Varun shine

Kolkata’s stunning turnaround in the UAE leg, which saw them win seven of their nine matches, wouldn’t have been possible without the contributions of Venkatesh and Varun. The duo played a stellar role in the thrilling win over Delhi on Wednesday. Varun broke the opening stand after removing Prithvi Shaw in the powerplay. The 30-year-old struck again with the wicket of Dhawan, which halted Delhi’s charge. Varun has claimed 11 wickets at an economy of 5.30 from nine matches in the UAE leg.

The quickfire half-century from Venkatesh took the game away from Delhi. While the Kolkata spinners managed to keep the batsmen at bay, Venkatesh didn’t allow Axar Patel and Ashwin to settle down. He went after both the spinners in their respective opening overs. Kagiso Rabada, who dropped the all-rounder on 23 off his bowling, was hammered over the long-on for a six by Venkatesh. He brought up his fifty in 38 balls and became the fourth player in the Kolkata colors to go past the 300-mark this season.

A late Delhi surge

For the second match in a row, Nitish Rana’s dismissal triggered a batting collapse. Rana holed out to Hetmyer near the boundary line in the 16th over. But Kolkata needed only 13 runs from 24 balls. Avesh Khan removed Gill four balls later. The Delhi skipper took a comfortable catch behind the stumps. The South African pace duo Rabada and Anrich Nortje cleaned up Karthik and Morgan, respectively, in the space of six balls to take the game to the final over.

With the fast bowlers completed their full quota of overs, Pant had to rely on Ashwin. The off-spinner trapped Shakib in front of the stumps in the third ball and, in the next delivery, grabbed Narine, who skied a catch to long-off. However, Tripathi hit the winning runs in the penultimate delivery to much the disappointment of the Delhi dug-out. Pant would be happy with his bowlers, who brought Delhi back from a hopeless situation and came close to sealing a stunning win.

The opening stand

If not for the 96-run stand between Gill and Venkatesh, Kolkata could have exited the tournament on Wednesday. The duo put on 50 runs inside the powerplay. Venkatesh played the big shots, while Gill, who struck a four off the first ball in the run chase, focused on rotating the strike. They dominated the Delhi bowlers and kept the required rate under seven. When Rabada broke the partnership in the 13th over, Kolkata required just 40 runs.

Delhi 135/5 in 20 overs (S Dhawan 36, S Iyer 30*; V Chakravarthy 2/26)

Kolkata 136/7 in 19.5 overs (V Iyer 55, S Gill 46; K Rabada 2/23, R Ashwin 2/27)

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