The left-arm spin of Shahbaz Ahamad and Abhishek Sharma derailed the Rajasthan Royals’ chase on Friday as the Sunrisers Hyderabad cruised to a 36-run victory to set up the 2024 Indian Premier League title clash with the Kolkata Knight Riders.

Having opted to chase after winning the toss, the Royals batters fell like a pack of cards on a dewless evening at the M Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai as Ahamad (3-23) and Sharma (2-24) shared five wickets among themselves in eight overs to restrict their opponents to 139/7 in their 20 overs.

Opener Yashasvi Jaiswal’s 21-ball 42 and an unbeaten 56 from Dhruv Jurel was the only shining light for the Sanju Samson-led side as they crashed out of the competition.

Earlier in the day, Sunrisers Hyderabad posted 175/9 in the first innings on the back of a fighting half-century from Heinrich Klassen (50).

On a wicket where the slower balls made the work tough for batters, the 32-year-old South African batted sensibly in his 34-ball stay to ensure that the Sunrisers did not lose their way. It was this anchor innings in a season of big hitting that the Royals lacked during their chase.

Turning point of the match

The Rajasthan Royals were on track to give the Sunrisers Hyderabad a run for their money in the chase, thanks to an explosive start from Jaiswal. Despite the lack of support from his opening partner Tom Kohler-Cadmore (10), the left-handed batter kept his team in the hunt.

Though the Royals were always behind the Sunrisers in terms of the runs scored after each period, the presence of Jaiswal meant that they were alive in the chase. But it soon changed when Pat Cummins introduced his Impact Player Ahamad into the attack in the eighth over of the chase.

The 29-year-old all-rounder was hit for a six off his second delivery, by Jaiswal but bounced back to remove the batter three balls later. Skipper Samson (10) fell in the next over to Abhishek Sharma as the match decisively turned in favour of the Sunrisers.

It was perfect horses for courses strategy from Cummins as he kept bowling the two spinners in tandem to propel his side into the final.

The Field’s player of the match

Ahamad for his all-round display is The Field’s player of the match for the Qualifer 2 between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Rajasthan Royals.

Not only did he strike thrice – Jaiswal, Riyan Parag, and Ravichandran Ashwin, but he had also scored a vital run-a-ball 18 earlier in the first innings after being brought in as the Impact Player.

Ahamad provided valuable support to Klassen after the Sunrisers were reduced to 120/6 in 14 overs following Avesh Khan’s double strike. By the time he fell in the final over of the innings, Sunrisers had already touched the 170-run mark. It was not a flashy innings by any means, but it was invaluable.

‘Did not know I will bowl’

Abhishek Sharma rarely got the ball in his hands this season. He has made a name for himself tonking the ball hard at the top of the order, forcing his bowling abilities to fly under the radar.

With the pitch showing some assistance to the spinners in the second innings, Cummins not only threw the ball to Sharma but also had him bowl his full quota of four overs in two two-over spells.

“I didn’t know I will bowl this game but I was happy that I got to bowl. I’ve been working on my batting a lot but I’ve been working on my bowling with my dad. So special mention to my dad. It [pitch] was quicker when we were batting and it started to turn in the second innings. Patty [Cummins] used the spinners well. I think it is the pressure I have on our team in the practice sessions that I got to bowl today.”

— Sunrisers Hyderabad's Abhishek Sharma