Kolkata: Kolkata Knight Riders did almost everything right in their IPL opener at Eden Gardens on Sunday, right from winning the toss to bowling out Delhi Daredevils in 17.4 overs to chasing their target for the loss of one wicket. A new-look, youthful and very slap-happy Daredevils batting order struggled to curb its enthusiasm after being given first use of a sluggish surface, and the result was a total of 98. Driven by their openers, KKR knocked off the target in 14.1 overs.
Gautam Gambhir’s decision to field on a turning surface was vindicated early with Andre Russell grabbing three wickets in three overs courtesy loose shots from Daredevils’ top order, and the spin pair of Brad Hogg and Piyush Chawla ensured there was no recovery. Four players got past ten, and yet Quinton de Kock’s 17 was the highest score of the innings. Tellingly, Hogg and Chawla bowled 32 dot balls between them. Hogg, aged 45, once again underlined his worth as a T20 force with 3/19 in four overs on a track assisting turn.
It didn’t take long for Daredevils’ young batting line up to splutter. De Kock briefly dazzled with a couple of pick-up shots before he top-edged a bouncer from Russell to mid-on in the third over. Shreyas Iyer was pinned to the crease before he had a run to his name and Mayank Agarwal slashed Russell to third man looking to shrug off a slow start. John Hastings struck with his ninth delivery when Karun Nair square-drove straight to point and at 35/4 in 5.3 overs, Daredevils had made a meal of the Powerplay.
Sanju Samson and Pawan Negi should have been separated at 40/4 but Manish Pandey missed the stumps for a second time; as it turned out the partnership didn’t last long. Hogg and Chawla sent Daredevils into a tailspin, grabbing five wickets for 37 runs in 34 deliveries. Back at the ground at which he swung those four consecutive sixes off Ben Stokes a week ago, Carlos Brathwaite hit one six but could’t read Chawla’s googly. The lower order also struggled to counter the spin, giving Hogg and Chawla (2/21) plenty to smile about. This was the seventh time in the IPL that Daredevils failed to reach 100.
All this left KKR to chase 99 and the job was done without fuss. Uthappa’s driving was a treat, barring one streaky edge wide of slip for four, and it provided him the bulk of his 35. Two flowing punches into the covers off Zaheer Khan and Nathan Coulter-Nile had him purring, and when he wasn’t fed his trademark shots, Uthappa shuffled across and collected fours with a simple clip of the wrists. For good measure, there were two perfect straight drives either side of the stumps, first off Zaheer and then Chris Morris.
Gambhir’s unbeaten 38 off 41 balls was aided by some freebies on the pads early on, which were delectably whipped into the vacant spaces. Though not as fluent as Uthappa, he tried hard to keep singles coming by nudging into the legside.
Amit Mishra, the specialist spinner for Daredevils, was the one to snap the stand at 69 when Uthappa made room and picked out long-off. That was the only success the visiting team had. Its early days in the tournament, but Daredevils have shown glimpses of a familiar failing.
Brief scores: Kolkata Knight Riders 99/1 in 14.1 overs (Gautam Gambhir 38*, Robin Uthappa 35) beat Delhi Daredevils 98 in 17.4 overs (Andre Russell 3/24, Brad Hogg 3/19) by nine wickets