The race to the semifinals in the IPL has now been reduced to a contest between seven teams. On Tuesday evening, Knight Riders became the first side to be ousted and though they will have to finish their quota of remaining five matches, those will only be of academic interest.
Against Team Delhi, in what could have been a last-ditch attempt at keeping their already faint hopes alive, the Knights lost the plot once again. It was another lacklustre effort, as has been the case in the last couple of matches. The result was simply another defeat.
On the other hand, Delhi, with a comprehensive nine-wicket win, roared to the top of the table with 10 points and are now firm favourites to clinch one of the four semifinal spots.
For once, it didn’t begin badly for the Knight Riders. Instead, the coin was tossed in their favour, they began their batting well, recorded their highest first-wicket partnership for this season, captain Brendon McCullum scored his highest so far and at 7.70 runs per over, the team reached 154 in 20 overs. Not a bad effort, or so it seemed before Delhi walked in reply.
Here’s where Knight Riders began slipping again as increasing pressure began to bring the worst in them.
Delhi skipper Gautam Gambhir, the only top-order batsman not in form so far, cracked his first half-century, David Warner and T Dilshan got going like they have been at every given opportunity, the Knights bowled short and wide and the game soon got out of their control.
If that wasn’t bad enough already, the Knights further fell prey to a butter-fingered approach. Four catches were dropped, three of them sitters, overthrows added to the frustration, misfields gave away those few extra runs. In short, bad came to worse for IPL’s poorest-performing team here at Kingsmead.
McCullum opted to field instead of keeping wickets and the job was handed to South African recruit Morne van Wyk. From short mid-wicket, McCullum tried to marshal his resources.
He went and patted his bowlers from time to time, had words of encouragement for the fielders when they let the easiest of chance slip away, discussed strategies with Sourav Ganguly, held the team together in a huddle during the time out. But nothing worked.
It was the end of the journey for one of the most talked-about teams. What remains now for them is mere formality.