Kolkata Knight Riders 126 for 5 (Morgan 47*, Tripathi 41, Henriques 1-5) beat Punjab Kings 123 for 9 (Agarwal 31, Jordan 30, Krishna 3-30, Narine 2-22) by five wickets
Eoin Morgan’s 47 not out off 40 balls steered the Kolkata Knight Riders to victory with five wickets and 20 balls to spare after his bowlers restricted the Punjab Kings to 123 for 9 in the first game of IPL 2021 in Ahmedabad.
It wasn’t a smooth ride though. At one stage, the Knight Riders were 17 for 3 but a 66-run stand between Morgan and Rahul Tripathi shut the door on the Kings. During his innings, Morgan also completed 7000 runs in T20 cricket and helped his side climb from the bottom of the points table to the fifth spot.
Earlier, the Kings innings never really took off after they were asked to bat first. The Knight Riders’ seamers restricted them to 37 for 1 in the powerplay and 56 for 3 after ten overs.
Sunil Narine and Varun Chakravarthy then proved too good for the Kings’ middle order. Despite the dew setting in the second half of the innings, the spin duo finished with combined figures of 3 for 46 from eight overs. A cameo from Chris Jordan proved too little, too late.
Knight Riders seamers strike at top
The Ahmedabad pitches were conducive to seamers during the recent India-England T20I series, and it was no different on Monday.
Shivam Mavi, bowling at a brisk pace, hit the good length consistently and kept the scoring rate down. KL Rahul tried to cut loose against Pat Cummins. He managed a six over third man but fell on the very next ball while going for another big shot, giving Cummins his first powerplay wicket in the tournament.
From the other end, Mavi dismissed Chris Gayle for a first-ball duck. Pushing away from his body, Gayle ended up bottom-edging to Dinesh Karthik behind the stumps.
Mavi was done by the seventh over, finishing with figures of 4-0-13-1, but there was no relief for the Kings. In the next over, Prasidh Krishna removed Deepak Hooda for 1, Morgan holding on to a low catch at backward point to leave the Kings 42 for 3.
Narine, Chakravarthy’s mystery engulfs middle order
After three wickets in 13 balls, the onus was on Mayank Agarwal to bail the Kings out. He launched Krishna for a six over deep midwicket to take the side past 50 in the tenth over. In order to push the run rate, Agarwal tried to take on Narine too but Tripathi’s tumbling catch sent him back for a 34-ball 31.
Soon after, Narine bowled Moises Henriques through the gate to make it 75 for 5.
Nicholas Pooran had three ducks in four innings coming into this match. Here he hit Chakravarthy for a six and a four on successive balls but the spinner had the last laugh when he uprooted Pooran’s off stump as the batter failed to connect a slog.
It was only because of Jordan’s 18-ball 30, which included three sixes and a four, that the Kings could cross 120.
Knight Riders stuttering at the start
Given the small target, the Knight Riders’ openers had the opportunity to get their eye in and find some form. They failed to made use of that though. Nitish Rana got a full toss from Henriques in the first over that he hit straight to short extra cover. In the next over, Shubman Gill ended up playing across the line to Mohammed Shami and was lbw for 9.
Narine was peppered with the short ball right from the start. He managed to connect one well against Arshdeep Singh but Ravi Bishnoi sprinted to his right from deep midwicket before putting in the dive to complete a stunning catch. Suddenly, it looked like the Kings could pull off a surprise.
Morgan, Tripathi dash Kings’ hopes
Morgan and Tripathi had other plans. The two didn’t hesitate coming down the pitch to fast bowlers and found boundaries regularly to keep the Kings on the back foot. That Bishnoi let a couple of fours slip in the field didn’t help either. The Knight Riders’ finished the powerplay on 42 for 3.
The flow of runs didn’t stop even after the field restrictions were lifted. Jordan’s first over, the eighth over of the innings, went for 13. Hooda finally broke the stand when Tripathi holed out to long-on for a 32-ball 41. Andre Russell tried to smash almost every ball he faced but found either an under edge or a fielder. He was run-out for 10 off nine balls but by then the Knight Riders needed just 24 from 35 balls. Morgan and Dinesh Karthik hit a flurry of boundaries to take knock them off.
Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo