Kolkata Knight Riders 136 for 3 (Tiwary 50, Hodge 50) beat Royal Challengers Bangalore 135 for 7 (Kallis 65*, Mathews 4-19) by seven wickets
It wasn’t as resounding a thrashing as Brendon McCullum’s ruthless innings in the opening game two years ago, but it was still a massive win for Kolkata Knight Riders in front of a heaving Eden Gardens crowd. Angelo Mathews followed up his fire-fighting effort with the bat on Friday by starring with the ball to pin down Royal Challengers Bangalore, before fireworks from Kolkata’s openers ensured Shah Rukh Khan’s team began their campaign with victories over both of last year’s finalists.
Kolkata were in control right from the start when Bangalore’s young batting talent failed, and the visitors were left to thank the experienced Jacques Kallis, who made a mad dash from South Africa after playing the Pro20 final on Friday evening, for holding the innings together. However, even his battling, an unbeaten 65 on a slowish track, couldn’t save Bangalore from getting a pasting.
Their troubles began when the surprise move to open with Sreevats Goswami didn’t work out. The pint-sized Goswami was hemmed in by a series of Charl Langeveldt bouncers, and his ploy of backing away to heave the ball to the leg side didn’t quite work. Manish Pandey also didn’t replicate the wonderful form of his domestic season, looking tentative in his short stay before his attempt to flat-bat Mathews down the ground ended in a bottom-edge onto the stumps.
Next in Bangalore’s youth brigade was Virat Kolhi, talked up by coach Ray Jennings as a future Indian captain, but he lasted only four deliveries before striking a dipping delivery from Murali Kartik to deep midwicket. With two deliveries left in the Powerplay, Bangalore were down to 20 for 3.
Kolkata’s new-ball bowlers had done their job, and they were backed up by some intelligent bowling from Mathews and Kartik to put Bangalore on the mat. Mathews sent down several slower bouncers which the batsmen struggled to pick, and Kartik varied his pace and effectively used the assistance provided by the track.
It was Kartik who provided the fervent crowd their next chance to scream. Bangalore’s new signing, Eoin Morgan, had started his IPL career confidently with a sensationally-timed off-drive for six off the second delivery he faced, but he was bowled by a short, slow ball, through with his reverse-sweep before the ball arrived.
All the while Kallis was starved of strike, though he had shown glimpses of form, including a ferocious lofted cover drive. He set about rebuilding with the help of another veteran, Rahul Dravid, putting on 38 with some old-school textbook batting. Dravid was looking in fine touch before he contrived to drag a full, wide ball from Mathews onto the stumps.
There was more sedate run-gathering with Robin Uthappa after that, and it wasn’t until the 15th over that Kallis opened up, clouting Rohan Gavaskar to the extra-cover boundary. Uthappa got his first boundary in the same region, before Mathews struck twice in four balls. Kallis then started to get innovative, walking across the stumps to paddle-sweep a ball for four to bring up his fifty, and repeating the stroke in the final over. There was a sweet, straight hit for six as well, and the 14 runs in the 20th over lifted Bangalore to 135.
It was an underwhelming total on a benign track, but not as tiny a target as the Kolkata batsmen made it seem. Manoj Tiwary may not have much of a reputation as a Twenty20 player, but it was his early onslaught that made the match such a one-sided encounter.
After three steady overs, Tiwary blasted Kallis for 14 in the space of four balls in the fourth, including a powerful swipe over midwicket for six. Much of Bangalore’s chances now depended on how effective their spearhead Dale Steyn was, but Tiwary crashed his second delivery over long-off for six more, before a couple of driven boundaries from Brad Hodge made it 17 off the over.
The last major threat was Anil Kumble, who also failed to make an impact, with Tiwary picking him for two fours in his first three balls to take Kolkata 60 for 0 after 5.3 overs, effectively ending the contest.
Things were less frenetic after that, and though both openers fell the delivery after they reached their half-centuries, Kolkata eased to a victory that will reinforce the belief in the side and among their fans after the abysmal shows of last season.