Kolkata Knight Riders responded with a horses for courses approach on a greenish Eden Gardens surface. Shakib Al Hasan and Morne Morkel, who were central to their plans last season, were benched. Sunil Narine, who played a stellar role in their title-winning run in 2012 and 2014, was unavailable because of his father’s demise. Did it hamper them? It didn’t look like, as Andre Russell and Brad Hogg took three wickets apiece to skittle Delhi Daredevils for 98. Robin Uthappa and Gautam Gambhir’s 69-run opening stand turned the chase into a cakewalk as Knight Riders won by nine wickets and 35 balls to spare.
Andre Russell and John Hastings, taking Morkel’s place, ran in hard and hit the deck to extra zip and unusual bounce. Quinton de Kock, who had pulled Umesh Yadav for back-to-back boundaries, was the first to go when he skewed a catch to mid-off. Three balls later, Shreyas Iyer was trapped lbw for a duck. Mayank Agarwal and Karun Nair exited in successive overs and Hastings capped the powerplay with a wicket maiden. By then, Daredevils were in a familiar spot at 35 for 4.
Pawan Negi, who was promoted to No.6, swished and missed balls. He was finally put out of his misery when Brad Hogg had him stumped for a 19-ball 11. IPL debutant Carlos Brathwaite, who fired West Indies to their second World T20 title last week, momentarily broke the shackles with a slogged a six over wide long-on. Two balls later, he was foxed by a skiddy googly from Piyush Chawla, who along with Hogg, toyed with the opposition by juxtaposing googlies with sliders.
Sanju Samson was the eighth Daredevils batsman to be dismissed before Hastings made a reappearance to wrap up the innings. Daredevils had slumped to their seventh sub-100 score in IPL, which also happened to be the second-lowest score in the tournament’s history at Eden Gardens.
The chase was a stroll for Knight Riders, with the onset of dew only making things worse. Zaheer Khan, playing his first competitive game since May 2015, floated flick-me balls, in the lower 120kph range, into the pads of Gambhir, who lapped up the gifts and hit three fours in the second over. Uthappa soon got into his shot-making stride with a brace of straight-driven fours and the hosts raced past 50 in the eighth over. The purple balloons were sent to the sky soon after that. Uthappa holed out for 35 in the tenth over, but Gambhir and Manish Pandey ensured Knight Riders’ campaign enjoyed a winning start.