In a match that the Sunrisers Hyderabad absolutely had to win, it was the Kolkata Knight Riders, who seized the big moments to pull off a massive seven-wicket victory and send SRH's hopes of making the playoffs crashing into a depthless mire.
Darren Sammy, instated as the captain for the rest of the season by the Sunrisers to allow Shikhar Dhawan to concentrate on his batting, decided to bat first after winning the toss, but the batsmen failed to put up a big score on a good surface, only managing a below-par 142 for eight.
The SRH bowlers always seem to come to the party when defending a low score, and the likes of Dale Steyn and Karn Sharma did their best, but the total just wasn't enough as KKR got home with two balls to spare, courtesy some brilliant finishing from Yusuf Pathan (39 n.o., 28b, 2x4, 2x6) and Ryan Ten Doeschate (29 n.o., 15b, 2x4, 1x6).
The loss, their third straight at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, means the Sunrisers are pretty much done for the season, having lost their seventh match in 11, and barring a big collapse in the last three games from KKR, they will miss the playoffs. The Knight Riders, though, firmed their grip on fourth place with 12 points from 11 matches, two more than their only real challenger now – the Royal Challengers Bangalore.
KKR's good form has been primarily down to the brilliant form of their opening duo Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa and the Knight Riders would have looked to another strong start to ease them through to the target again.
However, Gambhir was forced to walk back to the pavilion after Nigel Llong gave the left-hander out caught behind off Dale Steyn, leaving the KKR skipper seething and throwing a massive tantrum.
The Sunrisers could have got right on top of KKR had they picked up Uthappa as well, with Shikhar Dhawan, probably feeling the pressure of not being captain anymore, dropping a simple enough chance off Steyn.
That drop, with Uthappa on just nine, proved to be rather costly, as the KKR opener added another 31 runs to his name and in the process setting the game up for the rest of his batsmen.
Uthappa and Manish Pandey, playing intelligently, allied for 51 in 47 deliveries to bring the target down to 84 in a little over ten overs, before Uthappa's (40, 33b, 5x4, 1x6) luck ran out with a bizarre run out. The right-hander was sent back by Pandey while looking for a single and having got back comfortably he lost the grip on his bat, with wicketkeeper Naman Ojha whipping off the bails.
Pandey took over the aggressor's role following Uthappa's wicket, taking to Amit Mishra, who yet again proved to be too expensive for the Sunrisers. Yusuf Pathan had looked decent in his last outing with the bat against the Mumbai Indians, and found the middle of the bat from the off against SRH to ease that equation just that little bit more.
SRH, knowing they are as good as out of the running for the playoffs if they lose, kept at it and could have gotten two wickets in three balls, had Darren Sammy held on to a difficult catch, but one that should have been held, to dismiss Yusuf. Aaron Finch did hold on to send Pandey (35, 32b, 3x4, 1x6) packing, however, as SRH saw that door towards a victory open up just that tiny bit with KKR needing 39 from 28 deliveries.
Ryan Ten Doeschate has not been tested too much in IPL 2014, while you never know which Yusuf is going to show up on any given delivery, leaving SRH with still some hope of a win. However, it proved to be the tonking-boundaries-at-will Yusuf to the fore, as the big right-hander and Ten Doeschate picked off Bhuvneshwar for plenty in the 18th over to take the target down to just 16 from the final two overs, which was duly dispatched without too many worries.
Earlier, the Sunrisers threw away their chance to pile on the pressure on KKR with a big score by just losing wickets at all the wrong times. David Warner, Naman Ojha and Shikhar Dhawan got off to starts, but could not carry on, while new skipper Darren Sammy just looked out of sorts, making his return from few games out.
Aaron Finch faced up to a tasty and fiery barrage of pace bowling from both Morne Morkel and Umesh Yadav on a nicely paced pitch, and the Australian, after a couple of iffy shots, fell in the second over, edging one all the way to Morkel at third man off Yadav (three for 26), with the South African taking a quite outstanding catch low down.
Ojha, fresh from his impressive innings against KXIP, was sent in at No.3 again, and the right-hander looked in good touch with Dhawan also playing some wonderful shots through the offside.
However, time and again, Dhawan has failed to go on and make a big score to set the game up for his side, and the left-hander was stripped of the captaincy so he could concentrate on his batting. The plan seemed to work for 13 balls, but ball number 14 faced by Dhawan (19, 4x4) proved to be his final one, with the opener top-edging a sweep off Sunil Narine to Gambhir.
Narine was just outstanding again when it came to keeping things tight, giving away just 21 runs in his four overs, despite bowling a couple at the death, with Gambhir banking on his spinners to restrict the SRH batsmen as Shakib Al Hasan (3-0-22-2) and Piyush Chawla (4-0-24-1) also impressed.
Having lost both openers, SRH needed a partnership, and the foundation for one was being built by Ojha (22, 24b, 1x4, 2x6) and Warner only for the former to get out at an inopportune time, swinging one straight to Yusuf Pathan at backward point off Shakib.
Warner looked in the mood, enjoying himself on the pitch, smoking boundaries and sixes at will, but yet again, SRH threw away their momentum by losing wickets -- KL Rahul, first, lbw off Chawla, and Warner (34, 18b, 3x4, 2x6), second, caught in the covers by Pathan off Yadav.
Sammy came in and struggled to even lay bat on ball, while Irfan Pathan could not do much either as SRH limped from 108 for five in 14 overs to 142 for eight in 20, a score which proved to be just that tad short.