Kolkata Knight Riders’ fourth different opening combination in six matches was presented on Friday. This time Robin Uthappa accompanied skipper Gautam Gambhir to face the new ball. Gambhir departed for six, following a horrible mix-up with his partner. But Uthappa was taking the fight to Chennai Super Kings. After four overs, Kolkata were 35 for one and looked to be on course, chasing 149 for victory in 17 overs in this rain-affected game. Then came the Chennai spinners and normal service resumed.
Ravichandran Ashwin conceded just three runs in his first over and got rid of Jacques Kallis – an uppish sweep straight to Mithun Manhas at backward square leg to a delivery that pitched wide outside the leg stump.
Then left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja dismissed Manish Pandey and Shakib Al Hasan in his first two deliveries of the match. Pandey couldn’t check his shot as the ball stopped on him.
A losing battle
Kolkata slumped to 39 for four after six overs. Uthappa tried his best with a 38-ball 47. Yusuf Pathan hit three sixes off Ben Hilfenhaus in the penultimate over of the innings to reduce the victory margin. But Kolkata were always fighting a losing battle.
Once a crack is detected, this Chennai side led MS Dhoni is a master of turning that into a chasm. Jadeja and Ashwin tightened the noose around Kolkata batters and killed the contest midway into the run chase. Jadeja returned with figures of four for 12 from his four overs. Ashwin took one wicket but was economical and conceded just 21 runs in his spell. Mohit Sharma came back strongly from early reverses to take three wickets and become the new owner of the Purple Cap.
True to their reputation, the men in yellow also fielded brilliantly.
A 34-run victory in the first match of the India leg of IPL 7 came without breaking much sweat. Kolkata, on the other hand, looked pretty confused all along. Their batting was iffy, running between the wickets unsure and some bowling changes inexplicable.
At 9.91, Andre Russel has the worst economy rate for any bowler in the IPL. But somehow Gambhir felt he could be a good option for the death overs. So the West Indian all-rounder, who replaced Morne Morkel ostensibly for his better batting ability, was brought into bowl for the first time in the 15th over during Chennai innings.
Russel’s first ball was pitched up on the off stump and Dhoni dispatched it straight over the long-off boundary for a six. The fast bowler accounted for McCullum, but his two overs cost 25 runs and allowed the Chennai Super Kings to take their total, 148 for three, beyond Kolkata’s reach.
McCullum has been revelation since his triple century against India and here he produced a masterclass against Sunil Narine and Shakib. A 40-ball 56 (5X4, 2X1) was a brilliant effort on a difficult wicket.