The Kolkata Knight Riders kicked off their IPL campaign with an impressive victory over Sunrisers Hyderabad in Chennai. The architects of this victory were KKR’s top order who took the attack to the SRH bowlers on a two-paced wicket at Chepauk. The defining partnership came from Nitish Rana and Rahul Tripathi as they both scored excellent half-centuries at a strike rate in excess of 150. The Sunrisers Hyderabad did threaten to make the game close while Jonny Bairstow and Manish Pandey were at the crease but the total of 187 eventually proved to be too much on a Chennai wicket that offered considerable assistance to the spinners.
After being put in to bat, KKR looked to make the most of the new ball as Nitish Rana and later Rahul Tripathi batted with great intent at the top. Rana, in particular, targeted the pace bowlers such as Sandeep Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and T Natarajan as KKR put on 50 runs in the powerplay. Rahul Tripathi continued the momentum after Shubman Gill’s dismissal and scored an extremely quick half-century off only 28 deliveries. At one point, KKR were on course for a total of 200 but some quick wickets in the death overs ultimately limited their total to 187.
In their reply, SRH got off to the worst possible start in the run chase. Hyderabad lost both their openers within the first three overs thanks to some delightful bowling and sustained pressure from Harbhajan Singh, Prasidh Krishna and Shakib Al Hasan. The Sunrisers were eventually able to consolidate through Jonny Bairstow – who was in the side ahead of Kiwi captain Kane Williamson – and Manish Pandey. Bairstow continued his form from the ODI series against India and notched up his half-century but as the required run-rate kept climbing for the Men in Orange neither Manish Pandey nor Bairstow were able to shift the gears and up the tempo. Abdul Samad did hit two eye-catching straight sixes off Pat Cummins in the penultimate over but KKR were able to see out the game after some tidy death bowling from Andre Russell.
Eoin Morgan’s side will be extremely pleased with this victory as they were able to get past a solid SRH side without any major contribution from any of their four overseas players. Nitish Rana and Rahul Tripathi with the bat and Prasidh Krishna with the ball were the main positives for the Knight Riders as they kicked off their campaign in style and will look to get back into the play-off spots after two years of finishing 5th.
For SRH, the bowling – which has been their strength over the years – was particularly disappointing. Rashid Khan continues to be magnificent and ended with figures off 2-24 but apart from him all of their bowlers went the distance and were uncharacteristically expensive.