IPL in a nutshell: Sunrisers Hyderabad snatch final play-off spot as Kolkata Knight Riders miss out

After 56 games and several memorable tussles, the IPL play-off line-up is finally decided, with some star names – and unsung heroes – making their mark…

Three more go home after final tussle for play-offs

To describe the play-off battle as keenly-contested would be an understatement – going into the final round of group matches, six teams still had three places firmly in their sights.

Six soon became five when Chennai Super Kings, having failed to reach the play-offs themselves for the first time, took on the role of party poopers, crushing Kings XI Punjab by nine wickets to end their opponents’ hopes.

That appeared to set up a straight fight between Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals and, although it proved to be thoroughly one-sided, with KKR triumphing by 60 runs, ultimately both sides ended up leaving the party early.

While Rajasthan packed their bags immediately, Eoin Morgan’s KKR side were forced to endure a tortuous couple of days, glued to their TV screens in the hope that other results might fall in their favour.

It was not to be. First, they were looking for a resounding win in the fight for second place between Delhi Capitals and Royal Challengers Bangalore – and that failed to materialise.

Delhi, whose early form seemed a distant memory after four straight defeats, took a cautious approach to ensure they at least regained the winning habit, getting home by six wickets but with only six balls in hand.

That meant RCB’s run-rate was not sufficiently dented to nudge them out of the top four, so KKR’s play-off prospects were left hanging by the thread of a Mumbai victory against Sunrisers Hyderabad.

But Mumbai, already resting players ahead of the play-offs, were rarely in the game, while Sunrisers, who chased down a modest target of 150 to triumph by 10 wickets, reached the business end of the competition on the back of victories against each of their rivals.

IPL play-off schedule

Saha’s starring role in new dawn for Sunrisers

It is hard not to feel sympathy for Jonny Bairstow, who not so long ago was smashing the ball to all parts at the top of the order for Sunrisers Hyderabad.

Bairstow’s memorable knock of 97 in Sunrisers’ victory against Kings XI made it seem inconceivable that his place as David Warner’s opening partner was anything other than nailed on – yet the Englishman spent their last four group matches sitting on the bench.

But the ‘Orange Army’ were searching for a way to accommodate Jason Holder, who gave more balance to the side, particularly offering greater control with the ball, so another of their overseas contingent had to be sacrificed.

Enter Wriddhiman Saha. Perhaps best described as a journeyman wicketkeeper-batsman, the 36-year-old seized his opportunity with both gloves – his innings of 87 against Delhi Capitals launching the Sunrisers’ late, successful charge to the play-offs.

Saha made another telling contribution with the bat in their must-win game against Mumbai, hitting an unbeaten 58 as he and Warner chased down 150 with plenty to spare.

Yet Saha also underlined his worth behind the stumps, pulling off a sharp stumping to dismiss Suryakumar Yadav, the one Mumbai batsman who had threatened to set the Sunrisers a much more testing target.

There is no question that Saha’s arrival provided the Sunrisers with a shot in the arm when they needed it most and that could yet take them all the way.

Indian stars pressing for international honours

One of the best things about the IPL is seeing some of the fine Indian talents that are not in – or not yet in – the international set-up. On the evidence of this season, and for the last few in fact, it seems bizarre that Mumbai’s Suryakumar Yadav is not playing for his country already.

The stylish right-hander, 30, topped 500 runs in 2018 and 400 in 2019 and he already has 374 this season with at least two more games to play. His strike rate of over 150 is excellent, too, and his third fifty of the campaign, a dazzling 79 not out from 43 balls against RCB, had his name mentioned for higher honours.

Class inn yet again @surya_14kumar hope selectors are watching him playπŸ˜‰.. well played @mipaltan @IPL

Mumbai captain Kieron Pollard championed his batsman, saying: “He must be very disappointed not getting to don the blue for India but I’m sure he’s very, very close. He’s done some amazing things for us as a franchise.

“If he continues to be this consistent then at some point in time, you are going to get rewarded.” And Suryakumar, nicknamed SKY, received a potential boost with a tweet from India head coach Ravi Shastri.

Surya namaskar πŸ™πŸ». Stay strong and patient @surya_14kumar #MIvsRCB pic.twitter.com/oJEJhekwpC

SKY’s time may come then and it should also for two of the IPL’s best performing youthful batsmen – RCB’s Devdutt Padikkal and Suryakumar’s Mumbai team-mate Ishan Kishan.

The former began the IPL with four consecutive fifties and ended the group phase as the Challengers’ leading run-scorer with 472, while Kishan has also passed 400 runs for the tournament, with a healthy average of 47.55.

Gaikwad, Curran offer promise for future as CSK rebuilding job looms

The notion of Chennai Super Kings missing out on a seat at the play-off table seemed unthinkable for the three-time champions, who have featured in more IPL finals than any other franchise.

But, despite CSK’s failure to qualify this time around, they did manage to finish the tournament on a high, recording three victories in a row – two of them, against RCB and Kings XI Punjab, by sizeable margins.

There are several reasons for the men in yellow to feel optimistic about mounting a renewed challenge in 2021 – not least the confirmation by their talismanic captain, MS Dhoni, that he has no intention of hanging up his gloves just yet.

Veteran Australian all-rounder Shane Watson has already announced his retirement and Dhoni admits a shake-up is needed, saying: “We need to slightly change our core group. At the start of the IPL, we made a team that served us well for 10 years.

“There comes a time where you have to shift a bit, hand it over to the next generation. We will come back strong – that’s what we are known for.”

It looks certain that classy young opener Ruturaj Gaikwad will be part of that new-look core for CSK, having registered half-centuries in each of those final three games after missing the earlier part of the tournament following a positive Covid-19 test.

Another of the younger contingent to catch the eye during the tournament was England’s Sam Curran, who finished as CSK’s leading wicket-taker with 13 and also flourished with the bat after being moved up the order.

Destructive Gayle will keep causing chaos for a while yet

Kings XI looked doomed until Chris Gayle’s return to the side – and then, for a while, they seemed unstoppable. Until, that is, they faltered again at the death and crashed out with successive defeats at the hands of Rajasthan and CSK.

Ironically, the ‘Universe Boss’ saved his biggest performance for a losing cause – a swashbuckling knock of 99 from 63 balls against Rajasthan, which also saw him pass a significant milestone.

Gayle thrashed eight sixes in that innings, before being bowled by Jofra Archer and missing out on his ton, but it was enough to take him past 1,000 maximums in T20 cricket.

That landmark is far and away in excess of any other batsman in the world – while Pollard has struck the next highest number of sixes, he is still more than 300 behind his fellow West Indian.

So is there even more to come from the big-hitting left-hander?

'Universe Boss' Chris Gayle has hit a record 1,001 sixes in T20 cricket alone! πŸ’ͺ😱

But @nassercricket says he is much more than just brute force πŸ‘

πŸ’¬ When he hits all these sixes, look how still his head position is. He never over-hits. There is a lot of technique. πŸ’¬ pic.twitter.com/rOe3BhDDLn

Although it could be argued that, at 41, Gayle has nothing left to prove, he has yet to feature in an IPL title-winning team and observed on Friday: “I still want to do well. I’d love an IPL trophy under my belt.”

With the next edition of the tournament only a matter of months away, Covid-19 permitting, it seems inconceivable that Gayle will not be back to strike fear into the hearts of IPL bowlers yet again.

Shots of the week

πŸ‘ SHOT! πŸ‘

Gorgeous straight drive from De Kock off fellow South African Nortje – absolute textbook! πŸ“–

##MumbaiIndians #DelhiCapitals #IPL2020

πŸ“Ί Watch πŸ‘‰ https://t.co/Z6uWh8cz01
πŸ“‹ Scorecard πŸ‘‰ https://t.co/zq8IISwnjs
#️⃣ #Dream11IPL #DCvMI pic.twitter.com/9RGJ0xFOIT

🏏 Mr 360 indeed! 🏏

De Villiers ramps Pattinson over the wicketkeeper's head for SIX #PlayBold #MI

Get watching #IPL2020 on Sky Sports Cricket right now!

πŸ“Ί Watch πŸ‘‰ https://t.co/7gzzltARe3
πŸ“‹ Scorecard πŸ‘‰ https://t.co/sO1WUj2BDV
#️⃣ #Dream11IPL #MIvRCB pic.twitter.com/4NDMcZLekS

πŸ’₯ SIX! πŸ’₯

Quality pick up from Ishan Kishan, who deposits Steyn over deep midwicket to pass 1,000 career IPL runs #IPL2020

πŸ“Ί Watch πŸ‘‰ https://t.co/7gzzltARe3
πŸ“‹ Scorecard πŸ‘‰ https://t.co/sO1WUj2BDV
#️⃣ #Dream11IPL #MIvRCB pic.twitter.com/DDaxmQnUNx


Suryakumar (79no off 43) drills over extra-cover as #MumbaiIndians beat #PlayBold by five wickets #IPL2020#MI move closer to sealing a #Dream11IPL play-off place after a superb innings from Suryakumar #MIvRCB

πŸ“Ί ReactionπŸ‘‰ https://t.co/7gzzltARe3 pic.twitter.com/HHmugbA9mU

SIX, SIX, SIX! πŸ’ͺπŸ’ͺπŸ’ͺ

Three maximums in a row for Rana off Karn as #KKR up the run rate in style #IPL2020

πŸ“Ί Watch πŸ‘‰ https://t.co/SEGd21oxRW
πŸ“‹ Scorecard πŸ‘‰ https://t.co/lKM1wJPmCu
#️⃣ #Dream11IPL #CSKvKKR 🟑🟣 pic.twitter.com/eXBVp8Ijak

5️⃣0️⃣ partnership for Gaikwad & Watson, with this sumptuous six from Gaikwad a highlight! πŸ‘Œ

But Watson (14) has just holed out – #CSK 52-1 after 8 overs chasing 1️⃣7️⃣3️⃣

πŸ“Ί Watch πŸ‘‰ https://t.co/SEGd21oxRW
πŸ“‹ Scorecard πŸ‘‰ https://t.co/lKM1wJPmCu
#️⃣ #Dream11IPL #CSKvKKR pic.twitter.com/DJTmNy84Ie

4⃣, 6⃣, 6⃣ πŸ”₯

Sensational hitting from Ben Stokes, who hits Murugan Ashwin for 16 runs in the space of three deliveries! 😳#RR have raced to 54-0 off five overs.

πŸ“Ί Watch πŸ‘‰ https://t.co/SEGd21oxRW
πŸ“‹ Scorecard πŸ‘‰ https://t.co/XnEqgqKtXk
#️⃣ #Dream11IPL #KXIPvsRR pic.twitter.com/jw3vFIS3lr


Stokes ramps Cummins over fine leg for six with nothing more than a flick of the wrists – what a player! πŸ”₯#RR #KKR #IPL2020

πŸ“Ί Watch πŸ‘‰ https://t.co/nGDv7zitYp
πŸ“‹ Scorecard πŸ‘‰ https://t.co/TiJU5ZoUD0
#️⃣ #Dream11IPL #KKRvRR pic.twitter.com/KrtGFGBpRi

Catches of the week

What a delivery from Jofra Archer! πŸ”₯

The pace and bounce beats Mandeep Singh and Stokes takes a terrific diving catch.

What a start for #RR!

πŸ“Ί Watch πŸ‘‰ https://t.co/SEGd21oxRW
πŸ“‹ Scorecard πŸ‘‰ https://t.co/2Izcnojn5W
#️⃣ #Dream11IPL #KXIPvsRR pic.twitter.com/8x93Gc7bbW

Superb catch from Rahul Tewatia πŸ‘

Pooran's destructive cameo comes to a close, but #KXIP are still poised to post a big total!

πŸ“Ί Watch πŸ‘‰ https://t.co/SEGd21oxRW
πŸ“‹ Scorecard πŸ‘‰ https://t.co/XnEqgqKtXk
#️⃣ #Dream11IPL #KXIPvsRR pic.twitter.com/GB2AKkfTMD


Three wickets for Boult as Krunal takes a tumbling grab down the ground after avoiding a collision with Pollard #IPL2020#MumbaiIndians #DelhiCapitals

πŸ“Ί Watch πŸ‘‰ https://t.co/Z6uWh8cz01
πŸ“‹ Scorecard πŸ‘‰ https://t.co/zq8IISwnjs
#️⃣ #Dream11IPL #DCvMI pic.twitter.com/6eQ99eG06z


It looked like it would take something special to get rid of Stokes – and this is special! πŸ‘

Karthik with a sensational grab diving one-handed to his left πŸ‘#RR #KKR #IPL2020

πŸ“Ί Watch πŸ‘‰ https://t.co/nGDv7zitYp
πŸ“‹ Scorecard πŸ‘‰ https://t.co/TiJU5ZoUD0 pic.twitter.com/QW3pkVdWHi


πŸ”₯ This time Kohli is gone for 29!

πŸ”₯ Stoinis shows how it should be done with a brilliant one-handed catch on the boundary!#RCB 82-2 in the 13th over against #DC#IPL2020

πŸ“ΊWatch: https://t.co/RSFXaRevNN
πŸ“°Scorecard: https://t.co/huuDUTLoyc pic.twitter.com/XxXlhVZ7yb

Watch the IPL play-offs live on Sky Sports Cricket, starting with Mumbai Indians vs Delhi Capitals from 1.50pm on Thursday, with the winner progressing through to the final on Tuesday, November 10.

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