It's not happened too often in the Pepsi Indian Premier League 2013, but on Friday (May 3) night at Eden Gardens against Rajasthan Royals, Kolkata Knight Riders put up the kind of performance that made them so tough to beat last season, winning by eight wickets in a one-sided encounter.
The Rajasthan innings, after they won the toss and batted, was easily summed up with three talking points – Kolkata's bowling, Sanju Samson's innings and Rahul Dravid’s decision to keep himself away from the crease till the fourth ball of the final over. (Also see: Match in pics)
The pitch that rolled out for the match was practically inert and Kolkata, predicting that possibility, had packed their XI with slow bowlers. Eventually, they all played their part to restrict Rajasthan to 132 for 6. (Related read: All the stats from the match)
Sumit Narwal, the Delhi medium pacer, was patchy and bowled only two overs, but Sunil Narine, as he always is, Sachithra Senanayeke, Rajat Bhatia and Jacques Kallis were all on the spot. The delivery Senanayeke dismissed Ajinkya Rahane with was the pick of the lot – it was flighted, dipped to fool Rahane and turned sufficiently for the bat to be beaten and for Manvinder Bisla to pull off an easy stumping.
But Narine was the star, and in his first over, the 11th of innings, he made Shane Watson appear amateurish when Watson practically flayed at thin air before being dismissed lbw off the fifth delivery. For a change, with almost all the bowlers coming good, Gautam Gambhir had the liberty to use Narine as and when he wanted and Narine, though he picked just that one wicket, was brilliant, going for only 20 runs in his four overs.
If Narine was Kolkata's bowling hero, Samson, 18, did his growing reputation no harm by scoring a 36-ball 40 that was aggressive in patches and so sensible at other times that he belied his age. Samson hit the only two sixes of the Rajasthan innings but figured out early enough that the pitch was not made for big hitting and rotated the strike well, losing his patience only towards the end when he was first dropped by Bisla, a sitter off Narine, and then lost his wicket two runs later.
Dravid, meanwhile, chose to watch the proceedings from the dugout as James Faulkner, Samson, Dishant Yagnik, Owais Shah and Stuart Binny all went in ahead of him. Was it because he didn't trust himself to score quickly or was there a bigger game plan? In the end, he faced only three balls, collecting a four and a two in them.
Kolkata needed to plan their reply smartly and they got a good start courtesy Gambhir and Bisla – 41 runs – before Gambhir became the first wicket to fall. The credit for Gambhir's wicket really belonged to Yagnik, though Watson was the bowler. Watson had beaten Gambhir outside the off-stump and Gambhir's back foot had barely left the crease for a split second, but that was enough for Yagnik to whip off the bails in a spectacular piece of glovework.
Speaking spin-wise, Rajasthan had left out Ajit Chandila, who has an economy rate of 5.73 this season, and brought in Brad Hogg and Ankeet Chavan. Hogg and Chavan both conceded runs at over nine-per-over and while Bisla and Kallis batted smartly, it was Yusuf Pathan, with an unbeaten 49 scored off 35 balls with three fours and three sixes, who ensured that Kolkata crossed the line with enough to spare – 16 balls to be exact.