Perhaps Delhi Daredevils lost this match even before a ball was bowled. They were trying to recover from the shock of losing out on Kevin Pietersen and Jesse Ryder,when news arrived from Delhi last night that Virender Sehwag was down with back spasms and was not available to play against Kolkata Knight Riders at Eden Gardens.
And the first ball of the match,the first ball of the IPLs 2013 season,plunged Delhi further into gloom. Brett Lee,fast and accurate,straightened a ball of perfect length past the outside edge of Unmukt Chands bat and clipped the top of off stump. From that point,till the moment Eoin Morgan took the winning single to give the home side a six-wicket win with eight balls to spare,it was all Kolkata.
Midway into the chase,even the 60,000-odd fans went a little quiet. They had cheered their team and must have been delighted that they were starting their campaign with a big win. But they wanted a contest as well. The match had ceased to be a contest when Delhi had been bowled out for 128 in 20 overs.
If Delhi were missing important players,so too were the hosts,who were without Brendon McCullum and Shakib Al Hasan. Gautam Gambhir won the toss on a pitch that looked a lot firmer than it was throughout last season,and elected to field. Delhi skipper Mahela Jayawardene,for his part,said he would have batted anyway.
Through the course of the Delhi innings,Jayawardene showed that this was certainly a wicket with plenty of runs in it. As always,he was easy on the eye and scored 66 off 52 balls.
But while he did what he does best anchoring the innings he missed someone at the other end who could complement him and stitch together a decent partnership and put pressure on the Kolkata bowlers. Instead,a lot of the Delhi batsmen threw away their wickets.
It didnt help Delhi that Sunil Narine was continuing from where he had left off last season.
David Warner,who had struggled against Ravichandran Ashwin right through the Test series against India,found no respite when he faced Narine. Johan Botha looked rusty,meanwhile,and was out attempting a reverse sweep off the Trinidadian mystery spinner. Andre Russell,who simply couldnt read his West Indies teammates variations,offered Narine a simple return catch. Narine finished with figures of four for 13.
In the face of such asphyxiation,to which Lakshmipathy Balaji and Rajat Bhatia contributed with economy rates of under six an over,the Delhi batting crumbled. Apart from Jayawardene and Warner,who put on 44 for the second wicket,none of the visitors reached double figures.
Gambhir starts well
In reply,Kolkata simply had to avoid repeating Delhis mistakes. They lost Manvinder Bisla in the second over,to an accurate bouncer from Ashish Nehra,but Gambhir and Jacques Kallis calmed the nerves with a 47-run partnership for the second wicket.
Then a 41-run partnership between the skipper and Manoj Tiwary for the third wicket sealed the deal. Gambhir got an early life when Manprit Juneja floored a difficult chance at mid-wicket. But he played some gorgeous shots during his 42 off 29 balls.
Daredevils Indian seamers struggled for rhythm. Irfan Pathan,Umesh Yadav and Nehra looked short on game time and bowled too many boundary balls. Spinners Botha and Shahbaz Nadeem were economical and took three wickets between them,but Kolkata were always coasting. Delhi simply didnt have enough runs on the board.