Nitish Rana and Rahul Tripathi scored fluent half-centuries to help Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) demolish Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) by 10 runs in the third match of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021, in Chennai. KKR put up a daunting total of 187/6 and restricted SRH to 177/5 to start their campaign with a victory.
On a dry, dusty Chepauk surface, David Warner invited Eoin Morgan’s men to bat first after winning the toss. There was very little hint of movement for pacers at the start. Whenever Bhuvneshwar Kumar or Sandeep Sharma pitched up the ball in a bid to extract whatever little purchase that was on offer, they were punished immediately.
The KKR openers had enough time to watch the ball and despatch it away to the fence. Nitish Rana, in particular, was at his fluent best and seemed unflustered on a two-paced pitch. He smacked three consecutive boundaries in Sandeep Sharma’s second over, the last of which was an audacious flick to the square-leg.
Rana (80 in 56 balls) and Shubman Gill (15 in 13) hardly broke into a jog and yet KKR raced away to 50 without loss by the end of the Powerplay. Gill was undone the very next over while attempting to break free, but choosing to take on a Rashid Khan wrong ’un. He attempted a sweep, only to find himself getting tricked by a spin virtuoso; lost his poise and balance; and soon found himself sitting in the pavilion, a wry smile on his face.
Enter Rahul Tripathi, who signalled his intent with a mighty six over the long-on after an easy single on his first ball. Meanwhile, Rana continued with his act, soon reaching fifty in 37 balls.
Except for Rashid, none of the SRH bowlers managed to keep the run flow in check. Vijay Shankar was taken to the cleaners. T Natarajan kept leaking runs. And even when Sandeep and Bhuvneshwar were brought back, the results were not much different as Rana and Tripathi punched their way through to add 93-run for the second wicket.
The partnership was perhaps a sign of how KKR will approach the innings under Eoin Morgan’s first season as a full-time skipper.
With a scorecard reading 145/1 after 15 overs, KKR looked well on their way to touch the 200-run mark. But Tripathi’s departure in the next over, and a couple of more wickets in the subsequent over, by Mohammad Nabi, stalled the progress. In the end they could only reach 187/6, but even that seemed a challenging total.
Wriddhiman Saha, not Jonny Bairstow, walked out with Warner to open proceedings for SRH. On the other side of the fence was Harbhajan Singh, ready to spin a web around Warner, whom he had dismissed four times already. It could have been five, had Pat Cummins not squandered an easy chance at the point.
Warner, however, failed to capitalise and got out cheaply by edging an innocuous delivery from Prasidh Krishna to Dinesh Karthik behind the stumps. Shakib Al Hasan then got the better of Saha in the third over, reducing SRH to 10/2.
Bairstow (55 in 40 balls) and Manish Pandey (61 in 44) then took upon the tedious task of rebuilding after a scratchy start. They started tentatively, gradually shifting through the gears, and brought back their team in the chase.
Bairstow brought up his fifty in the 12th over but holed out to Rana in the next over, bowled by Cummins. The glimmer of hope that his innings sparked dimmed out with his dismissal. SRH still required 86 runs from the last seven overs.
Pandey reached his fifty as well, soon afterwards. Abdul Samad tried to reignite the chase with a couple of sixes. Unfortunately, both failed to alter the complexion of the game that has already slipped away from Hyderabad’s reach. In a larger context, Samad’s blitzkrieg might force the Sunrisers management to send him a bit earlier from the next match. That was one of the few positives for the David Warner-led unit.
Kolkata Knight Riders 187/6 in 20 overs (Nitish Rana 83, Rahul Tripathi 53; Rashid Khan 2-24) beat Sunrisers Hyderabad 177/5 in 20 overs (Manish Pandey 61*, Jonny Bairstow 55; Prasidh Krishna 2-35) by 10 runs. Player of the Match: Nitish Rana.
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