After the toss, both captains acknowledged that they had got what they wanted. Kolkata Knight Riders had always been a chasing side, said Gautam Gambhir. His statement was backed up through the course of Sunrisers Hyderabad's innings. They had plans for personnel, they had plans for conditions and they had plans for the size of the ground. And, among others, they had Nathan Coulter-Nile executing those plans perfectly in a crunch game. The Australia fast bowler hadn't played a single game since being struck on the grille by a Dan Christian bouncer at the start of May. On his return, he took 3 for 20 on a ground that , even with it's relaid surface, is not one that is pace-friendly.
Coulter-Nile's wickets came at important points in Sunrisers' innings. He had his first when a good length delivery, like many of his previous ones, sat in the pitch and brought a tame end to Kane Williamson's innings. It came immediately after he and David Warner had put up 50 for the second wicket and Sunrisers had made 32 runs off the previous three overs. Coulter-Nile himself had conceded the most expensive one, the tenth, which cost 13 runs.
His final over was the 19th of the innings. Sunrisers had relatively well-set batsmen at the crease, with six wickets still in hand. Rising Pune Supergiant had made 41 off their last two overs against Mumbai Indians in the first qualifier, and it had proven the difference. Sunrisers were similarly placed tonight. But Coulter-Nile displayed his understanding of the conditions, targeting short of good length and reaping the benefits.
He forced Vijay Shankar, a batsman in the traditional mould, to try and hit him on the up on this pitch. It got him a wicket first ball. Then, with the same length he found Chris Jordan's leading edge and took a smart one-handed catch, diving to his left. The 19th over went for only three runs.
The wow moment
In Jordan, the Sunrisers still had the hitting ability to give them an extra 15 runs at the back end of the innings. The leading edge Jordan got off the first ball he faced was a few yards wide of the bowler, and could have landed safely in front of extra cover. Coulter-Nile had the reach to think about attempting it, so he went. But holding onto it was the bigger problem, and so he had to time his landing and make sure the elbow didn't hit the ground which would then have made the ball pop out of his hand. And he did. Near-perfectly.
Stats that matter
Williamson was Coulter-Nile's 100th T20 wicket
Coulter-Nile has now taken four three-wicket hauls in seven matches this season
He also picked up his third Man-of-the-Match award
What they said
"My head is better than it was a couple of days ago. Didn't expect it to affect me as much as it did. I went to bed at 10 pm and woke up at 7 pm the next day and I had headaches. Finally over that. The pitch today was the exact opposite of Kolkata, good pace and bounce there, here not so much. Worked out well for us though.'
Nathan Coulter-Nile on the trouble he faced after being hit on the helmet