Kolkata Knight Riders booked their spot in the final of the Indian Premier League 2024 as Mitchell Starc and the spinners dominated Sunrisers Hyderabad to win the Qualifier 1 clash by eight wickets in Ahmedabad on Tuesday.

Starc showcased his mettle with a fiery opening spell as he ripped through the Sunrisers’ top order, leaving them reeling at a below-par 159.

The Australian pacer struck early, shattering in-form Travis Head’s stumps with just the second ball of the match, before dismissing Nitish Reddy and Shahbaz Ahmed in quick succession.

Head – IPL’s third-highest run-getter – fell victim to Starc’s lethal delivery, while Reddy was caught comfortably by wicketkeeper Rahmanullah Gurbaz. Ahmed’s departure came with a mistimed shot that ended in him chopping onto his own wickets.

With Starc’s devastating opening spell of 3/22, Kolkata Knight Riders seized control of the game to make their fourth IPL final appearance.

Despite a resilient effort from Rahul Tripathi, who scored 55 off 35 balls, Sunrisers Hyderabad struggled to build partnerships. Tripathi’s valiant innings was supported by Heinrich Klaasen’s 32 runs.

Klaasen had managed to score 16 runs off eight balls against Sunil Narine, but Varun Chakravarthy, induced him to hole out with just his second legitimate delivery.

As the innings progressed, Sunrisers faced continual setbacks, with Tripathi being run out and the middle order faltering against Kolkata’s disciplined bowling attack. Despite a late surge led by skipper Pat Cummins and Vijayakanth Viyaskanth, Sunrisers could only manage to surpass the 150-mark.

In his opening over, T Natarajan dismissed Rahmanullah Gurbaz, who departed for 23. Meanwhile, Cummins utilised a short ball to dismiss Narine, who managed 21 runs.

Despite these breakthroughs, the Kolkata Knight Riders openers had already inflicted significant damage during the powerplay, accumulating 63 runs towards their target of 160.

In the end, Kolkata Knight Riders made lightwork of the chase as captain Shreyas Iyer (51) and Venkatesh Iyer (58) stitched an unbeaten 97-run partnership to propel them to a convincing victory over Sunrisers Hyderabad.

Turning point of the match

Starc had already dented Sunrisers’ innings by making early inroads. However, just when Hyderabad saw a partnership building between Tripathi and Klaasen, Chakravarthy made an immediate impact in his opening over by dismissing the dangerous Klaasen.

He bowled fast and full just outside off, luring the South African wicket-keeper into a slog but forced him to hit to the longer part of the ground with Rinku Singh stationed at deep mid-wicket to take that catch.

Meanwhile, Tripathi held firm at the other end as he moved towards his fifty, but a needless run-out halted his momentum.

Wickets kept tumbling for Sunrisers Hyderabad, as Chakravarthy once again delivered an impressive spell to stifle their progress.

The Field’s Player of the Match

Mitchell Starc had broken Sunrisers Hyderabad’s confidence early on. The Hyderabad’s opening duo and powerplay performance have been a standout throughout the season but Starc managed to nip it in the bud early on as they were reduced to 39/4 in 4.6 overs. Starc accounted for three out of the four wickets.

There had been pressure on him to justify his multi-million dollar price tag and what a game for him to come good for his team. Varun Chakravarthy deserves a special mention for picking up an economical 2/26 at just 6.50 runs per over but Starc pips him for the early impact with his 3/34.

‘Needed to pick early wickets’

Head and Sharma have been crucial in Sunrisers’ batting performance in the season. While Head has scored 533 runs in 13 matches at a strike rate of 19963, Head has scored 470 runs at a strike rate of 207.05.

By getting the dangerous Head out for a duck and bowling a magnificent opening spell after that, Starc had provided Kolkata with a dream start.

“We know how important the powerplay is. These were the two sides who have dominated in the powerplay with the bat. We needed to pick early wickets and get into their middle-order. The way [Travis] Head and Abhishek [Sharma] have been playing throughout the tournament, they like width and free their arms. We just tried to swing the ball and not provide them width. [The plan was to] bowl stump to stump and the hard length.”

— Mitchell Starc in the post match presentation on his plan to bowl to the Sunrisers' openers