Opener KL Rahul blasted his way to a fastest ever half-century in Indian Premier League as a new look Kings XI Punjab started their campaign on a resounding note defeating Delhi Daredevils by six wickets on Sunday. Ravichandran Ashwin marshalled his resources admirably restricting Daredevils to a mediocre 166 for 7 on a placid track. The KXIP captain himself bowled a few leg breaks during his disciplined effort of 1 for 23 in 4 overs. The surprise package was Afghanistan off-spinner Mujeeb-r Rahman, who finished with 2 for 28 in 4 overs.
Courtesy Rahul, who smashed six boundaries and four sixes in his 16-ball-51, the match as a contest was over within the Powerplay as KXIP raced away to 73 for 2 in six overs.
Karun Nair, who has had a mixed season, then helped himself to a 33-ball-50 as the home team reached the target in 18.5 overs.
Only Yuvraj Singh's 12 off 22 balls stuck out like a sore thumb as he once again looked a pale shadow of his old self.
The star of the match certainly was Rahul, who started with a top-edged six and a couple of boundaries off Trent Boult.
He also smacked Mohammed Shami over fine-leg for a six in the next over. By the time Amit Mishra was introduced in the third over, he was in a murderous mood.
He hit Mishra for three fours and two sixes as the 24 runs in that over brought up the fastest ever 50 in 11 editions of IPL.
Rahul was out trying to play a slap shot but the pressure was off Kings XI's back by then as Nair also made merry hitting five fours and two sixes. The sixes -- one was hit over long-off and other was a slog sweep over fine leg.
"For years, I have been branded a Test cricketer. It's good for me to be up there, creating history and breaking records. Hope to continue this way," Rahul said after being adjudged 'Player of the Match'.
Gambhir's decision to play Mishra can certainly be questioned as the bowler didn't look fully fit and has played very little domestic cricket this season. During training sessions, he was very rusty as the 46 runs in 4 overs would indicate.
Another leg-spinner Rahul Tewatia (1/24 in 4 overs) mainly bowled wicket to wicket and got lucky dismissing Yuvraj with a half-tracker.
"We got a decent total, but the first six overs took the game away from us. Credit to the bowlers to take it till the 19th over, I thought that was a tremendous effort. Once the ball got old, it was hard to clear the fence. 166 was a competitive total," DD skipper Gambhir said.
Earlier, Gambhir's 42-ball 55 helped Delhi Daredevils post a decent total of 166.
Gambhir's knock was studded with five boundaries and a six and he fell run out in the 15th over dealing a blow to Delhi's hopes of achieving a big total.
Delhi were restricted by a fine bowling display by Punjab, with 17-year-old spinner Rahman making his IPL debut. Since the youngster was bowling finger spinners, it allowed Ashwin to bowl some leg-breaks, which he has been trying in order to remain in contention alongside Yuzevndra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav for a place in the Indian limited overs side.
Asked to bat first, Delhi got off to a cautious start after losing their opener Colin Munro (4) in the third over, as he missed a switch hit and Rahman trapped him leg before.
Despite losing his opening partner Munro, Gambhir batted well and repeatedly hit left-arm spinner Axar Patel inside out.
However, as and when Gambhir tried to up the ante, he kept losing partners at the other end, with Shreyas Iyer (11) being caught behind of Axar. Vijay Shankar (13) too failed to impress giving medium pacer Mohit Sharma the first of his two wickets.
At 77 for 3 in the 10th over, Rishabh Pant (28) raised hopes for DD and looked to bat with ease alongside Gambhir. However, he too departed in the 11th over of the innings having scored a quickfire 13-ball 28.