After batting well to score 30, Kallis sunk Delhi’s hopes as he conceded just 11 runs from the 17th and 19th overs and claimed the key wickets of Venugopal Rao and Ross Taylor. The Daredevils were most definitely in the game before the South African’s return to the attack, needing 46 runs from the last four overs, with six wickets in hand.
But Kallis, no doubt delighted to be bowling on a pitch that was not the usual low-bouncing track found in India, used the short ball superbly and bowled with pace as he finished with two for 24 in four overs.
Delhi were chasing 163 but lost big-hitting openers David Warner (7) – to a very mediocre decision by umpire Billy Doctrove – and Virender Sehwag (10), both caught behind by Brendon McCullum off successive deliveries from Shakib Al Hasan and Lakshmipathy Balaji.
So the Daredevils needed to rebuild, and Naman Ojha and Mahela Jayawardene brought Delhi back into a position from which they could win the game as they reached 83 for two after 10 overs, needing just 80 more to win.
Jayawardene was playing a masterful innings, knowing exactly where to place the ball, as he went to 39 off 33 balls, with six sublime boundaries.
Ojha scored a run-a-ball 29 before he cut a short delivery from medium-pacer Rajat Bhatia straight to backward point to give Kolkata a vital breakthrough in the 11th over.
Four overs later, McCullum managed to stump Jayawardene on the second attempt as the Sri Lankan came down the pitch to left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla, but was beaten by a quicker, flatter delivery that was fired into his pads.
Tomes have already been written about Kallis’s prowess with the bat, but on Tuesday he showed his brilliance with the ball. The 36-year-old so seldom errs in his reading of conditions and he dug the ball in to menacing effect.
Venugopal and Pawan Negi were surprisingly sent up the order when the Daredevils’ batting line-up houses a destructive, experienced hitter in Taylor, and the two Indians produced stodgy innings.
It was always a safe bet that Venugopal, flapping erratically at short balls on his way to 13 off 22 balls, would eventually run out of luck and he was all at sea against another Kallis lifter on the penultimate delivery of the 17th over, splicing a catch into the covers.
Taylor, completely wasted at No 7 in the order, then clipped Kallis firmly off his legs but straight to deep square-leg to fall for 11 off eight balls.
When Kallis finished his spell, Delhi were on 137 for six and needing 26 off the last over, but mystery spinner Sunil Narine easily accounted for Negi (14) and Morne Morkel (0).
The Daredevils finished on 144 for eight and the Kolkata Knight Riders had sealed their first appearance in an IPL final.
Yusuf Pathan provided the Kolkata Knight Riders innings with a late boost as they posted 162 for four after electing to bat first.
Pathan, who has had a woeful IPL, hammered 40 not out off just 21 balls as the Knight Riders reached a challenging total on a pitch that offered turn and some assistance for the pace bowlers.
The Knight Riders’ top-order struggled to break the shackles of tight fielding and tidy bowling by Delhi, with Gautam Gambhir, McCullum and Kallis all getting set before getting out as Kolkata struggled to 106 for four after 16 overs.
Left-arm spinner Negi was the Delhi bowler who kept the tightest rein on the run-scoring, taking one for 18 in four excellent overs.
Kolkata openers Gambhir and McCullum successfully negotiated the impressive opening burst from Morkel, and Gambhir was humming along splendidly as he raced to 32 off 16 balls.
But McCullum then drove Varun Aaron firmly to mid-off and Gambhir came too far down the pitch, Venugopal scoring a direct hit, which the third umpire ruled had just beaten the Indian star’s effort to get back to his crease.
McCullum was just starting to show some promising signs of blossoming as he went to 31 off 36 balls, but he then sliced a drive off Negi to point.
Kallis scored 30 off 33 balls before he picked out the man at deep midwicket with a wonderfully-struck short-arm pull off Umesh Yadav.
That left the Knight Riders in an awkward position with just four overs remaining, but Pathan hammered three fours and two sixes with the ferocity of an orc, while Laxmi Ratan Shukla set about the bowlers from the start of his innings in a scintillating 24 not out off 11 balls.
Pathan and Shukla added 56 for the fifth wicket off just 24 balls to leave Delhi chasing a testing target against the best spin-based attack in the competition. The pair took 21 runs off the last over of the innings, bowled by Aaron.
The Daredevils’ decision to use just one spinner in Negi backfired, with the South African, Roelof van der Merwe, left on the sidelines as the fast bowlers – Yadav (4-0-37-1), Morkel (4-0-37-0) and Aaron (4-0-48-0) – all leaked the runs at an alarming rate.
Irfan Pathan, the left-armer, was the one pace bowler to impress, conceding just 20 runs in the four-over quota while claiming the wicket of Shakib for a single.
Delhi will now play the winners of the eliminator between the Mumbai Indians and the Chennai Super Kings to decide the other finalist.