Defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders made a winning start to their campaign in the sixth edition of the Indian Premier League, outplaying Delhi Daredevils by six wickets in the opening match here at the Eden Gardens on Wednesday.
West Indies’ ‘mystery spinner’ Sunil Narine starred in the comfortable win, bagging four wickets for 13 runs. Narine, who played a major role in KKR’s maiden title triumph last season with 24 wickets, continued to be their trump card.
Electing to field first on a slow wicket that favoured spinners, KKR dismissed Delhi Daredevils for a modest total of 128, thanks to some disciplined performance by their bowlers. Gautam Gambhir then led the chase with a captain’s knock of 42 of 29 balls as KKR romped home with eight balls to spare.
Though KKR lost their opener Manvinder Bisla early, victory always seemed within their grasp. Gambhir and Jacques Kallis made the task easier, punishing the opposition pace attack, which was wayward. Gambhir was aggressive from the start and hit five boundaries and one six. The knock was an indication that he was determined to regain his place in the Indian team.
Kallis was shaping up well, hitting two beautiful boundaries off Ashish Nehra, but got out playing a lose shot off left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem. Gambhir, too. failed to capitalize on his explosive start and was trapped leg before by Johan Botha. But a useful contribution by local boy Manoj Tiwary guided KKR home.
Earlier, the match started on an eventful note as young Delhi Daredevils’ opener Unmukt Chand was castled by Brett Lee in the first ball. David Warner and skipper Mahela Jayawardene steadied the ship to an extent by compiling 44 quick runs in their second-wicket stand.
But Delhi innings fell apart as Narine broke the stand, having Warner caught by Kallis at slips with a gem of a delivery. Thereafter, wickets fell in regular intervals with Laxmipathy Balaji and Rajat Bhatia also chipping in. Jayawardene fought a lone battle, top scoring with a masterly 66 of 52 balls. But rest of the Delhi batsmen came a cropper.
‘Losing quick wickets hurt’
Daredevils skipper Jayawardene blamed loss of too many quick wickets for their six-wicket loss to Knight Riders. “On this pitch, 150 was a good score but we kept on losing wickets at regular intervals which cost us 20-30 runs in the end, which eventually cost us the match. The pitch was slow and in the effort to pace up the scoring we lost too many wickets.”