Rashid Khan, till Friday evening in this IPL, was just carrying out his routine – which is to bowl amazingly well. He does it so often, so well, that it has stopped becoming a special event. Like the gushing of water at the Niagara. Like Chennai getting boiled by the sun in May. Like when a No 10 batsman gets out after making a single-digit score.

It’s noteworthy only when these things cease to happen. And, such rarities occur. So, it was shocking to see Rashid give away more than 10 runs per over on two occasions this IPL (against Kings XI Punjab and Chennai Super Kings).

Otherwise, Rashid’s been upto his usual things. Otherwise, Rashid’s been a nightmare for the batsmen. Otherwise, Rashid has bowled amazingly well.

The thing with Rashid is that he’s been doing this year after year, in one league after another. Everywhere, all the time.

Rashid in T20s in the last three years

2016 23 38 6.23
2017 55 77 5.59
2018 26 38 6.36

Doesn’t matter who his captain is, Rashid will be one of his go-to guys.

Rashid is both – his captain’s hitman and his emergency number. Sunrisers Hyderabad skipper Kane Williamson uses him to strangulate a struggling team or to curb the run flow. And, whatever his captain wants, this genie from Afghanistan delivers almost always.

Sunrisers’ losing streak

Because he’s a champion, individually, he wants badly to end up on the winning side as well. His cherubic smiles during Sunrisers’ six-match winning streak this season, if you were following the IPL, you wouldn’t have missed. But during the last four matches of the Sunrisers, Rashid was, on multiple occasions, seen with a sad face. The last four matches, Sunrisers lost. And, Rashid had nothing to do with any of those losses. His bowling figures in those games, in which he bowled four overs each: 0/25, 3/27, 0/31, 2/11. In two of these matches, SRH’s batsmen didn’t put enough runs on the board.

Which is why, on Friday, he did something that was out of routine: bat well.

With the IPL final berth on the line on Friday against KKR, it seemed like the SRH batsmen had failed again when he strode out to bat. On what the commentators reckoned to be a 180 wicket, Sunrisers were reeling at 138/6 in 17.5 overs with Carlos Brathwaite, their last recognised batsman, their death overs total-booster, getting out for a four-ball eight.

13 balls left. 160 seemed out of bounds, so forget 180. Some of the supporters might have prayed even to get to 150 at least and hoped for their bowlers to be magical like they were during the middle stages of the tournament.

And, indeed, one of their bowlers was magical. With the bat.

Rashid’s big Friday night

The first ball Rashid faced off Prasidh Krishna, he looked to hit him across the line. But the ball took the outside edge and went over the keeper for a four. Unintended area, intended result.

Rashid started his career as a batsman. He has made a 27-ball 33 against the West Indies in a T20I. He can bat, but he’s only half-decent. But it didn’t matter. He needed to get runs for his team, and it didn’t matter if they came off edges or the sweet spot.

His third ball, he stepped out to Shivam Mavi (who constantly clocks 140 kph) and slashed him to deep point. Piyush Chawla advanced to the ball, trying to attack it. The ball went through his hands, over the ropes. Six. Rashid Khan usually doesn’t need fortune to be on his side. Today, it was his ally. And, he was unstoppable.

The following deliveries he faced: Dot. Dot. Six. Four. Six. Two. Six.

Winning with the bat and then with the ball

What Rashid Khan did to the Knight Riders with the bat at the death on Friday, Kolkata Knight Riders’ Chris Lynn and Sunil Narine have been doing to the other teams at the start throughout the season. In 3.1 overs, they were 40/0 and well ahead of the required rate. Narine fell but Lynn continued the carnage.

The number of runs KKR scored in each over till the seventh: 6, 13, 19, 8, 12, 9.

Lynn looked set by then. Nitish Rana had hit a couple of sixes in an over as well. KKR were 67/1 in 6. Williamson called Rasheed.

Seventh over: Three runs.

An over later, Rana worked Shakib’s delivery to midwicket and called for two. He slipped after completing the first run. He should have cancelled the run, especially after knowing that Rashid had the ball. He decided to take the Afghani on. But this night was Rashid’s night. With a fine throw, he ran out the well set Rana.

When Rashid came to bowl his second over, Uthappa was struggling to get going. Uthappa should have waited longer, but he was looking to reverse-sweep the world’s No 1 T20 spinner and lost his stumps. The crowd at the Eden Gardens became quieter.

But Lynn swept him past the square leg ropes in that over. A conventional sweep seemed like a safer option against Rashid.

It wasn’t. Lynn tried doing the same in Rashid’s next over. But the ball, this time, missed the bat and struck the pad. Plumb. Out. The crowd at Eden Gardens went silent.

In his final over, Rashid took out Andre Russell with a googly. Phew, it’s over, no more Rashid, KKR fans would have sighed relief.

Wrong. When Shivam Mavi desperately sought a last-over six over deep midwicket, Rashid was there to catch the ball. When Shubman Gill tried succeeding at the same, he was there again.

Rashid was there to play a blinder to boost his team’s total. Rashid was there to pick up wickets when his team needed them desperately. He was there to throw the ball to run a batsman out. He was there at deep-midwicket denying desperate prayers of KKR fans in the last over for Mavi’s and Gill’s shots to clear the boundary.

Rashid Khan was here, there and everywhere to end Kolkata Knight Riders’ four-match winning streak.