Riding on a sensational batting performance by their captain David Warner, Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) finally put an end to the memorable campaign of the Indian Premier League (IPL) debutants Gujarat Lions (GL) with a four-wicket win at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium to enter their maiden tournament final on 27 May.
It was Warner's belligerent knock of 96 runs that single-handedly turned the tide in favour of Hyderabad who notched up the total of 162 runs with four balls to spare. His unbeaten partnership of 46 runs for the seventh wicket with Bipul Sharma (27*) dashed Gujarat's hopes of reaching their maiden IPL final.
Warner, who smashed 11 fours and three sixes in his unbeaten 58-ball innings, failed to find support from his top-order as Hyderabad were left reeling at 117/6 in 15.5 overs when the last recognized batsman, Naman Ojha (10) was sent back into the hut.
With pressure and emotions soaring high, Bipul stepped up to the task with a crucial knock that seemed like a deja-vu of Iqbal Abdulla's innings against Gujarat in Qualifier 1. Abdulla's solidity had allowed AB de Villiers to score freely as the pair strung a 91-run stand to guide Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) into the final.
Three days later, it was Bipul who did an Abdulla against the same opponent. The left-handed all-rounder smashed Praveen Kumar for a towering six on the third delivery he faced and brought the equation down to 34 off 18 balls. In the 18th over, Bipul shuffled across and scooped Dhawal Kulkarni for a six over fine leg to bring Hyderabad back in the hunt.
Earlier in the match, Aaron Finch's 32-ball 50 lifted Gujarat to a respectable total of 162 runs for the loss of seven wickets. The Australian powerhouse smashed two sixes and seven fours en route to his fifth half-century this season, while his side kept losing wickets at regular intervals.
Hyderabad received a big blow even before the start of the match as left-arm medium pacer Mustafizur Rahman (16 wickets) was ruled out due to a hamstring injury. Filling in for the Bangladeshi, Kiwi paceman Trent Boult contributed handsomely, taking a wicket and being involved in two other wickets.
Medium pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar (2/27) and Ben Cutting (2/20) also stepped up and contributed significantly and thanks to them, Gujarat struggled from the beginning, losing opener Eklavya Dwivedi (5) and skipper Suresh Raina (1) inside four overs.
Eklavya offered a simple catch to Boult at third man off a rising delivery from Bhuvneshwar in the first over. Boult bowled the next over and had left-hander Raina leg before wicket (LBW), as Gujarat reached 19/2 in 3.2 overs.
Brendon McCullum (32) and Dinesh Karthik (26) started a recovery process as they started the partnership carefully. They had struck a 44-run stand when tragedy hit Gujarat as Karthik ran himself out while trying to take a single towards short third man (Boult) in the ninth over bowled by left-arm spinner Bipul.
After this wicket, Hyderabad took full control of the match as Bipul dealt another blow to Gujarat when he had McCullum caught by Bhuvneshwar at deep cover in the final ball of the 12th over.
West Indies all-rounder Dwayne Smith (1) too joined McCullum soon in the dug-out as he was caught at deep cover by Shikhar Dhawan off medium pacer Ben Cutting, following which Gujarat reeled at 83/5.
Finch utilised the long handle to good effect as he milked sixes and fours all around the park to ensure that Gujarat get a competitive score. He scored the bulk of the 51-run stand with Ravindra Jadeja.
After completing his fifty in just 31 deliveries, Finch was castled by compatriot medium pacer Cutting but Jadeja (19*) and Dwayne Bravo (10-ball 20) steered Gujarat past 160-run mark.
In reply, Hyderabad too witnessed a turbulent start, losing Shikhar Dhawan (0), Moises Henriques (11) and Yuvraj Singh (8) cheaply. While Dhawan ran himself out, Henriques drove straight to cover off medium pacer Smith and Yuvraj was caught by Smith at long off in the bowling of chinaman spinner Shivil Kaushik.
But Warner kept Gujarat at bay, with his belligerent batting, completing his fifty in 35 balls - his eighth half-century of the tournament.
However, wickets continued to tumble at the other end, with Deepak Hooda (4) being adjudged leg before wicket in the bowling of Bravo, as Hyderabad were reduced to 75/4 in 11.1 overs - still needing 88 from 8.4 overs.
Cutting's wicket - caught by wicket-keeper Karthik off Kaushik in the 13th over - raised further hopes for Gujarat, who were on top.
In the following over, Warner and Ojha collected 19 runs from Smith's bowling to raise Hyderabad's hopes but the 16th over bowled by Bravo put Gujarat again on top as he dismissed Ojha (10) while conceding just two runs. After this, Hyderabad needed 45 off four overs.
Warner later found great support from Bipul, who stunned Gujarat with his power and grit. With 24 required off two overs, Warner and Bipul milked 20 runs in the penultimate over bowled by Bravo and they completed the formalities in the final over in style.
Hyderabad will now face batting-heavy Bangalore for the coveted IPL title in the season's finale at M Chinnaswamy stadium in Bengaluru on 29 May.