Rahul Tripathi started the party just as it seemed as though the lights were finally set to go out on Kolkata Knight Riders’ renaissance in the 2021 Indian Premier League.
The 30-year-old batter muscled the penultimate ball of the match — and that, too, a hat-trick ball — into the stands to send Kolkata through to Friday’s final at Delhi Capitals’ expense.
His teammates must have already thought they had won the right to face Chennai Super Kings in the final when they reached 123-1, chasing just 135 to win.
They needed just 12, and had four overs in which to do it. Stunningly, they tumbled to 130-7 in no time.
It left Tripathi with six to get off the last two balls from Ravichandran Ashwin to win it. He only needed one of them.
“The win for the team was very important,” Tripathi said. “There were one or two tough overs but I didn’t think the game would go that deep. I knew I just had to connect with one. I did that, so I am very happy.
“It was difficult coming in because the pitch was keeping low. Getting singles or boundaries were difficult, and it was difficult to get your first or second ball off the middle of the bat.
“I thought it would be OK. I was just believing in myself. I knew we were just one hit away, and we would do it.”
Venkatesh Iyer had broken the back of the run chase, posting his third half century of his debut IPL, having made one in each of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.
When he went, for 55 off 41, it already felt as though it was game over.
Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje and Ashwin, as well as the slow Sharjah wicket, combined to send jitters racing through the Kolkata dressing room.
Tripathi got them over the line at the last, though, with three wickets and a ball to spare.
“I don’t think I have words to express how we are feeling right now,” Rishabh Pant, the Delhi captain, said.
“As Delhi Capitals, we kept on believing, we tried to stay in the game as long as possible, and the bowlers nearly pulled it back. It is unfortunate they passed the line.
“Delhi Capitals is all about being positive, and hopefully we can come back stronger for this next year.
“Throughout the season we have played really good cricket. Yes, there will be ups and downs with cricket, but as the Delhi Capitals, we stick together, we learn from each other, we care for each other.
“There are a lot of learnings going forward, so hopefully we will improve next year.”