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Former Australian all-rounder Shane Watson lauded Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) skipper Shreyas Iyer for his performance as a leader in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL), leading his team to the final, saying that a complete team performance by the Knights throughout the season only reflects how well he is doing as a leader and giving everyone the freedom to play their best. Riding on a combination of Mitchell Starc‘s red-hot scorching spell, Venkatesh Iyer and Shreyas Iyer’s belligerent fifties, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) secured their place in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 summit clash after beating Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) by 8-wicket in a lopsided Qualifier 1 contest at the Narendra Modi Stadium on Tuesday.

Speaking on Iyer’s leadership and knock of 58*, Watson said to JioCinema, “He played a crucial innings. He has batted nicely throughout this IPL but to be able to put up a dominant display like he did, 58 runs, it is a very impressive time as well, to know you are hitting the ball incredibly well. As a leader, he has had a lot of success. This means he is getting the best of the people around him.”

“It is not just him doing his thing, he is performing well, the team and players around him are doing very well, which is a telltale sign that you as a leader are doing a very good job. You are not suffocating players around you by putting too much pressure on them, you are allowing people to have the freedom to play their best and tonight, they were all really good,” he added.

In the ongoing season, Iyer has scored 345 runs in 13 innings at an average of 38.33 and a strike rate of 146.18, with two half-centuries. His best score is 58*.

This tournament has witnessed an all-round team performance from the two-time champions. Sunil Narine (482 runs and 16 wickets in 14 matches), Phil Salt (435 runs in 12 innings), Iyer (345 runs in 13 innings), Venkatesh Iyer (318 runs in 12 innings), Angkrish Raghuvanshi (163 runs in seven innings), Ramandeep Singh (125 runs in nine innings), Andre Russell (222 runs in nine innings and 16 wickets), Rinku Singh (168 runs in 11 innings), Varun Chakravarthy (20 wickets in 14 matches), Harshit Rana (17 wickets in 12 matches), Mitchell Starc (15 wickets in 13 matches) and Vaibhav Arora (10 wickets in nine matches) have contributed to victories in different capacities.

Coming to the match, Sunrisers Hyderabad elected to bat first. After being reduced to 39/4 following an incredible powerplay spell by Mitchell Starc, a 62-run stand between Rahul Tripathi (55 in 35 balls, with seven fours and a six) and Heinrich Klaasen (32 in 21 balls, with three fours and a six) helped SRH cross the 100-run mark. But wickets kept falling for Sunrisers as bowlers were able to maintain pressure on KKR. A late cameo from skipper Mitchell Starc (30 in 24 balls, with two fours and two sixes) took SRH to a respectable 159 in 19.3 overs.

Starc was the pick of the bowlers for KKR, with a spell of 3/34 in four overs, once again making an impact during the big stages. Varun Chakravarthy also picked up 2/26 in four overs. Vaibhav Arora, Sunil Narine, Andre Russell and Vaibhav Arora got a wicket each.

In the run-chase of 160 runs, a 44-run partnership between openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz (23 in 14 balls, with two fours and two sixes) and Sunil Narine (21 in 16 balls, with four boundaries) provided a fine platform to KKR. Attacking half-centuries from skipper Shreyas Iyer (58* in 24 balls, with five fours and four sixes) and Venkatesh Iyer (51* in 28 balls, with five fours and four sixes) made a mockery of SRH’s bowling and run-chase, winning the game by eight wickets with 38 balls to go.

With this win, KKR has earned a direct spot in the final, while SRH has one more shot at the title clash and will play in Qualifier two against the winner of the eliminator match between Royal Challengers Bengaluru (RCB) and Rajasthan Royals (RR) taking place on Wednesday.

Starc took home the ‘Player of the Match’ award.

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