Shreyas Iyer on the final over – Told Harshit Rana this was his time to ‘become a hero’

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Harshit Rana, with just 12 T20s to his name before Saturday night, found himself with the unenviable task of defending 12 runs off the final over in Kolkata Knight Riders’ first game of IPL 2024. On strike was a marauding Heinrich Klaasen, batting on 56 off 26 deliveries. The previous over, bowled by the IPL’s most expensive player Mitchell Starc, had just gone for 26 runs. Klaasen’s partner, Shahbaz Ahmed, had faced just four balls but had already hit 16. And when Klaasen pulled Harshit’s first ball of the over for six, it looked like Sunrisers Hyderabad were going to pull off an incredible heist.

Sunrisers’ win probability, according to ESPNcricinfo, was 0.35% when their No. 6 Abdul Samad fell off the penultimate delivery of the 17th over. Then with five balls to go, they were 97.2% favourites at Eden Gardens. But Harshit held his nerves to dismiss both Shahbaz and Klaasen and deliver a win in front of a delirious home crowd.

“To be honest, in the last over I thought anything could happen,” KKR captain Shreyas Iyer said after the match. “They needed 13 runs and we probably didn’t have the most experienced bowler bowling at that particular time.

“But I had that belief in him. I knew that something would happen,” said Shreyas, who admitted to having butterflies in his stomach in the closing stages. “This is the time where he could become a hero. That’s what I told him. ‘Back yourself. No matter what happens in this situation, we’re going to back you’.

“To be honest, Harshit was a bit nervous when he was coming to bowl [the 20th over]. I looked into his eyes and I told him ‘this is your moment, buddy. You need to make the best use of it and don’t think much about it’.

“I told him ‘Even if we lose, it’s fine. You just back yourself and you see to it that you execute whatever I say and what messages we got from inside’. It was a big cluster in between, but I tried to calm him down as much as possible and then the rest is history.”

Andre Russell, who blazed an unbeaten 64 off 25 to take KKR to 208 after walking in at 119 for 6, praised Harshit’s attitude for the final over.

“I think his body language was on point in the last over; he wanted the ball,” Russell said. “That is the body language we all need as professionals. If he was shying away from it, it could have gone their way.

“He told me that he wanted the last over. So he claimed it and he did deliver for us. With the first ball gone for six, still there was some doubt there, but you know he came back strong and he got the job done.”

Harshit finished the game with career-best T20 figures of 3 for 33.

With Klaasen clearing the boundary at will against spinners and fast bowlers alike, the KKR dressing sent out a clear message – take the pace off the ball. And it worked to perfection, as Harshit outdid the South African with a slower ball when Sunrisers needed five runs off two balls.

“Well, the plan from the outside was that Klaasen was really hitting the pace balls. So let’s bowl it pace off and it worked really well,” batter Ramandeep Singh, who scored 35 in the first innings, told the broadcaster after the game.

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