We polled our staff for their picks of the top ten best batting, bowling and all-round performances in the IPL through its history. Here's No. 4
In 2018 the last two knockout games of the tournament were to be held in Kolkata, and the Kolkata Knight Riders ended up playing in both, turning what was a neutral ground on paper into a home venue for them. In close to eight hours of game time between those two matches, the stadium announcer didn't manage to draw support for anything non-KKR.
Apart from when Rashid Khan strutted his stuff.
Khan wasn't new to the IPL in 2018, but for the first time he had appeared fallible that season, particularly against left-handers who were willing to attack him. Early in the season, he had gone for 55 and 49 in consecutive games, on the receiving end of attacks from Chris Gayle and Suresh Raina.
KKR, a young, attacking side rebuilt in the image of new leader Dinesh Karthik, had the resources to take him on. Coming into the qualifier against the Sunrisers Hyderabad, they had posted totals of 160-plus 12 times, more than any other team that season. Of the regulars in their batting roster, only one batter had been striking at under 130, Chris Lynn.
The Sunrisers were reduced to 138 for 7 batting first, with 11 balls to go and a below-par score looming. Khan managed to carve two sixes over sweeper cover off the 19th over, from Shivam Mavi. In the final over, he produced two more, whipping Prasidh Krishna over backward square leg off his toes, a la Viv Richards, and spanking the last ball over long-on, contributing 19 to an over that went for 24. An unbeaten 34 in ten balls, and SRH had a total of 174. "Is this the game changer?" asked Sanjay Manjrekar on commentary. Eden Gardens was on its feet as Khan walked off.
KKR sent Nitish Rana in at No. 3 in the chase, after the openers got them 40 in 3.2 overs. It was a strategy to delay and dilute Khan's influence - the only other time Rana had batted No. 3 that season was also against SRH. Khan was going at 9.95 per over against left-handers that season up to that point, as against 5.53 against right-handers.
In the ninth over, Rana was run out - by Khan, no less, who landed his one-bounce throw from the deep on top of the stumps to catch the batter short. A working plan fell apart for KKR.
First ball of his next over, the 11th, Khan flattened the leg stump of a panicky Robin Uthappa, as he looked to play the reverse sweep. They weren't picking him, but Lynn and Karthik still managed to get 11 off the over.
Lynn had lived dangerously against Khan, sweeping on all five deliveries he had faced from him till then in the game. He had survived on the first attempt, saved by the glove on an lbw appeal, and the fifth was a top edge that fell short of square leg, right after Karthik had been dismissed in the previous over. By his sixth attempt, Rashid had figured Lynn out and he went trapped him in front of middle with a googly.
Eighty-six for 1 had turned to 108 for 5 in the span of four overs. The mood had changed, the crowd now responding every time the announcer screamed Khan's name.
The last recognised batting pair of Andre Russell and Shubman Gill decided they would play Khan out and then go about chasing the over 60 required at nine an over in earnest. It didn't work.
In Khan's last over, Russell patted two legbreaks into the off side with his feet rooted in the crease. That made Kane Williamson bring in a short leg, in the 15th over of a T20 match, against an almost unrecognisable Russell, meek and careful at 3 off six balls. Then a googly Russell did not pick, came ripping quickly into his body and forced a late cut for which he wasn't in position. He could only slice it as far as the slip fielder.
KKR only managed 160, and SRH were through to the final. Even at the end, it was all Khan, who took the last two catches to cap one of the all-time-great all-round T20 performances: a batting strike rate of 340, an economy of 4.75, three wickets, two catches, and a run-out.