The Sunrisers Hyderabad leg-spinner put in a sensational all-round performance in the second Qualifier against Kolkata Knight Riders on Friday to lead his team into the final. The 19-year-old smashed an unbeaten 34 of just 10 balls before going on to claim three crucial wickets to turn the game in Hyderabad’s favour.
The spin prodigy has now taken his tournament tally to 21 wickets. After his man-of-the-match performance, social media was awash with Indian fans asking for Rashid Khan to be granted citizenship of the country.
Those calls made Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani take notice and the country’s premier took to Twitter to set the record straight.
Telling Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that he had no intention of giving Rashid away, the Afghan President lauded the spinner for his heroics.
“Afghans take absolute pride in our hero, Rashid Khan. I am also thankful to our Indian friends for giving our players a platform to show their skills. Rashid reminds us what’s best about Afghanistan. He remains an asset to the cricketing world. No we are not giving him away. @narendramodi,” he wrote on Twitter.
Afghans take absolute pride in our hero, Rashid Khan. I am also thankful to our Indian friends for giving our players a platform to show their skills. Rashid reminds us whats best about Afg. He remains an asset to the cricketing world. No we are not giving him away. @narendramodi— Ashraf Ghani (@ashrafghani) May 25, 2018
The Afghanistan President was not the only one singing Rashid’s praise on Friday with Indian batting legend Sachin Tendulkar going on to call the bowler the best in the T20 format.
Legendary leg-spinner Shane Warne too was in awe of Rashid’s talents after Friday’s showing. Taking to Twitter, Warne wrote: “As a leg spinner I love seeing all the different types of leg spinners playing in the #IPL but watching Rashid Khan bowl in these big games makes me proud as he loves this stage & pressure it also gets me excited!”
The praise from Warne did not go unnoticed by Rashid who thanked the Australia great for his words.
Five days after Faf Du Plessis’ blinder of a knock helped Chennai Super Kings beat Sunrisers Hyderabad in the first IPL Qualifier at the Wankhede Stadium, the two sides will meet again at the same venue for one final shootout for the trophy.
In these five days, while the Super Kings have been and relaxing in Mumbai, the Sunrisers have had to travel to Kolkata and back to play the second Qualifier.
The final on Sunday will be the fourth time that the two teams will be meeting this season. MS Dhoni’s Super Kings have prevailed in all three previous encounters.
When it comes to making IPL finals, no one is as consistent as Dhoni and the Super Kings. The Chennai skipper will be playing in his eight IPL final in 11 years, a truly mind-boggling number. Chennai themselves will be turning up for their seventh IPL final in nine years as they look to seal their return from a two-year suspension with a title win.
Despite their record when it comes to the IPL, it is a trophy that Chennai have not lifted since 2011 when they became the only side to successfully defend the crown. Since then, Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders have added three and two titles to their names respectively while Chennai have failed at the final hurdle on three occasions.
It is a trophy Dhoni will be determined to bring back to the city of Chennai after a seven-year wait. Much of what ‘Captain Cool’ has done this season both individually and as a skipper points to an unwavering focus towards ending that title drought.
PLAYER IN FOCUS
That it will be the Sunrisers and not Kolkata Knight Riders who will fight Chennai on Sunday is down solely to Rashid Khan. The Afghanistan leg-spinner’s all-round show snatched victory from the jaws of defeat for Hyderabad.
For all his mesmerizing skills with the ball, the 19-year-old showed that he also has the batting prowess to back it up with an unbeaten cameo of 34 runs off just 10 deliveries. With the ball in hand, Rashid remains a game-changer and simply the best in the format. His three huge wickets on Friday took his tournament tally to 21. Add that to an economy-rate of 6.78 and and you realise how sensational the Afghan teenager has been in the IPL this year.
Always felt @rashidkhan_19 was a good spinner but now I wouldn’t hesitate in saying he is the best spinner in the world in this format. Mind you, he’s got some batting skills as well. Great guy.— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) 25 May 2018
Chennai Super Kings: Shane Watson, Ambati Rayudu, Faf du Plessis, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni (wk, c), Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, Deepak Chahar, Harbhajan Singh, Shardul Thakur, Lungi Ngidi
Sunrisers Hyderabad: Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Shikhar Dhawan, Kane Williamson (c), Manish Pandey, Shakib Al Hasan, Deepak Hooda, Carlos Brathwaite, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Sandeep Sharma, Siddharth Kaul
Sunrisers batted first and posted 174 for seven, thanks to a superlative 10-ball 34 from Afghan ace spinner Rashid, including 18 off the last over.
In reply, the Knight Riders seemed to be on course with Chris Lynn (48) steering the chase but Rashid rose to the challenge once again, snaring three top order wickets (3-19) to put the match beyond the Knight Riders. He was brilliant in the field as well, affecting a crucial run out and taking two catches in the final over.
Sunrisers thus snapped their four-match losing streak and will face Chennai Super Kings in the final, the team they lost to in Qualifier 1.
KULDEEP’S TWIN STRIKES
Wriddhiman Saha and Shikhar Dhawan tried to hit their way out of trouble as Kolkata seamers Shivam Mavi and Prasidh Krishna gave almost nothing away. The wicket offered a fair amount of movement early on, which forced the openers to be more inventive.
Kolkata could have had a wicket in the third over itself when Saha skied one off Mavi but captain and wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik surprisingly grassed the chance.
However, left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav put an end to Sunrisers’ spirited start as he deceived Dhawan with a full delivery to have the batsman lbw with his very first ball before getting captain Kane Williamson caught behind off a googly in the same eighth over.
All three KKR spinners were on the money at the Eden Gardens. The wicket has encouraged spinners to give the ball a good rip with the ball stopping on the surface in Kolkata this season. Sunil Narine (1-24) and Kuldeep (2-29) were excellent in their four overs while Piyush Chawla did admirably as well – one for 22 from three.
No surprises that the Sunrisers were struggling at 122 for four after 16 overs.
RASHID TAKES OVER
It was another match where all-rounder Andre Russell didn’t bowl his full quota of overs. He sent down just one over, with youngsters Mavi and Krishna entrusted with the death overs.
That proved to be disastrous as Rashid smashed Mavi for two sixes in the penultimate over before tearing into Krishna. The Afghan spinner tonked the Kolkata quick for two sixes and a four as the final over went for 24, taking the total to 174 for seven.
LYNN ON TOP
The Knight Riders had won their last two games played at Eden Gardens, including the Eliminator against Rajasthan Royals. Realising that the Sunrisers were low on confidence having lost four matches in a row coming into Qualifier 2, Lynn went after their famed bowling attack that had performed so well early in the tournament.
His 48 held the innings together even as wickets fell around him.
RASHID TAKES THE LEAD AGAIN
Has anyone ever had a better T20 match? 35 off 10 balls. 3 for 18, and two catches. The best strike rate, the best economy rate, and the most wickets. Rashid Khan could have parted the sea today— Sambit Bal (@sambitbal) May 25, 2018
It was a brilliant day in Kolkata for Rashid. After helping Sunrisers post a challenging total, he gave a crucial breakthrough in the field by running out Nitish Rana with a strong throw from the mid wicket boundary.
He then forced Robin Uthappa to play an ungainly reverse sweep, pegging the batsman’s leg stump back. But the most important blow was Rashid’s dismissal of Lynn as he trapped the opening batsman lbw on 48.
The Afghan spin ace wasn’t done. He tied down the dangerous Russell before forcing him to cut a googly to first slip. The leg-spinner returned splendid figures of 3-19 from four overs.
If that wasn’t enough, in the final over with 19 needed for victory, Rashid showed immense composure under pressure to take two catches again on the mid-wicket fence to secure victory.