Stellar Starc fires Kolkata to third IPL title

Kolkata Knight Riders' Mitchell Starc celebrates after the fall of a wicket as his team won a third IPL title (Punit PARANJPE)
Kolkata Knight Riders' Mitchell Starc celebrates after the fall of a wicket as his team won a third IPL title (Punit PARANJPE)

Mitchell Starc bowled a sensational opening spell to fire Kolkata Knight Riders to their third Indian Premier League title with a eight-wicket thrashing of Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Sunday final.

Kolkata bowled out Hyderabad for IPL's lowest total of 113 in a final as Australia's left-arm quick Starc returned figures of 2-14 to live up to his top billing in the world's most lucrative T20 tournament.

Starc went to Kolkata for a record $2.98 million in the December auction and ended the IPL with two stellar performances, including a match-winning 3-34 in the first play-off to hammer the same opponent.

Kolkata's batsmen had it easy and despite Sunil Narine's early departure, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, who made 39, and Venkatesh Iyer, on 52 not out, helped the team home with 9.3 overs to spare after a partnership of 91.

Iyer, a left-handed batsman, reached his 50 in 24 balls and hit the winning runs to trigger celebrations for Kolkata, who remained the most dominant team after they ended top of the table with 20 points in the league phase.

Skipper Shreyas Iyer was unbeaten on six, and at the other end, when Kolkata players came rushing on to the pitch and the stadium fireworks went off.

"My mom is watching from home," said Afghanistan's Gurbaz, who left the tournament midway through to be with his ailing mother back home and returned for the play-offs.

"She is feeling good now. I asked mom before the match if she wanted anything. She said just the win," added the wicket-keeper-batsman.

"This win is for the fans who turned up year after year and waited for ten years," Venkatesh said on his team's first title win since 2014.

Kolkata's co-owner and Bollywood superstar actor Shah Rukh Khan was in attendance and congratulated his champion players after he suffered from a heat-related illness in the first qualifier in Ahmedabad.

It was Kolkata's second title triumph at the venue, after they won their first trophy in 2012, and a near-capacity crowd at the 36,000-seater stadium cheered on.

- Gambhir effect -

Apart from the big signing of Starc, they got Gautam Gambhir as mentor after the former India batsman led the team to two titles.

Hyderabad skipper Pat Cummins won the toss and elected to bat first and go with his team's strength of scoring big, after they racked up IPL record totals of 277 and 287 in this year's edition.

Hyderabad took Cummins for $2.5 million in the same auction and made him captain after he led Australia to two titles, including the World Test Championship and the ODI World Cup last year.

But Starc took the limelight as he struck in his first over when he bowled in-form Indian batsman Abhishek Sharma, for two, on a delivery that pitched in the middle and caught the top of off stump.

Travis Head followed his fellow left-hand opener Abhishek to the dug-out, caught behind for his second duck in three matches off fast bowler Vaibhav Arora.

Starc struck again and the opposition top-order was in disarray at 47-4 inside seven overs.

Andre Russell took down Aiden Markram for 20 and wickets kept tumbling as fellow South African Heinrich Klaasen fell for 16.

Cummins, who was dropped on 10 by Starc, took the team past 100 before falling for 24 off Russell, who ended with figures of 3-19.