Defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders exerted their muscle over a depleted Delhi Daredevils in the IPL six opener at Eden Gardens on Wednesday, chasing a target of 129 with six wickets and eight deliveries to spare. Delhi lost their way following a brisk recovery for the second wicket, with Sunil Narine living up to his IPL 5 billing with four wickets against a confused Delhi batting order. Only Mahela Jayawardene left a mark, batting 18.5 overs for his 52-ball 66. Delhi's sorry scorecard contained eight single-digit figures, highlighting the difference that Jayawardene and David Warner (21) made.
Delhi's innings started on a terrible note, as Brett Lee bowled Unmukt Chand first ball with a sharp in-cutter. The over finished with two boundaries to Jayawardene and Warner, who proceeded to mix trademark cricket shots with some innovation to push the score along at over seven-and-a-half per over. Warner was strong off the pads, while Jayawardene used his crease to try and steer and dink the bowlers off their line.
Almost inevitably, Narine's first over produced the breakthrough. The spinner's fifth delivery spat across Warner who was beaten by for turn and edged to Jacques Kallis at slip for 21. Manprit Juneja, on IPL debut, chanced his arm during his nine-ball stay and was excellently held at deep cover by a diving Laxmi Shukla, giving L Balaji a deserved wicket. At the strategic break, Delhi were 60 for 3 in nine overs.
Gautam Gambhir's decision to take pace off the ball and operate with Balaji and Rajat Bhatia dried up the runs, and looking to break the shackles of a medium-paced chokehold Naman Ojha became the fourth wicket to fall for 9, lofting Bhatia to Lee at long-off. Johan Botha was dropped on 2 when Shukla missed a sharp return catch, but looking to reverse-sweep Bhatia around the corner, Delhi's latest overseas recruit was trapped lbw for 7.
With Narine set to bowl three of the last six overs, Delhi, at 92 for 5, needed to target the other bowlers but failed to do so. Balaji conceded four off the 15th over; Irfan Pathan fell to Narine in the 16th which produced just two singles; the 17th from Lee cost 11 during which Delhi crossed 100; and Narine pocketed Andre Russell in the 18th. Jayawardene swung Lee for six and four before he fell on to the last ball of the penultimate over, and in the final six balls Delhi managed just three runs as Narine added Ashish Nehra to finish with outstanding figures of 4 for 13.
Delhi extracted an early wicket as Manvinder Bisla fell to Nehra in the second over, but an aggressive reply from Gambhir settled KKR's chase. Gambhir tucked into Irfan and Umesh Yadav with some meaty shots to smooth over the loss of Kallis (23), who whipped Shahbaz Nadeem to deep midwicket in the eighth over. Gambhir was excellent off the front foot and bat and deftly timed the ball into the gaps en route to 42 off 29 balls before being given lbw to Botha in the 14th over.
Looking to sweep Nadeem, Manoj Tiwary (23) popped an easy catch to Ojha to lift Delhi's spirits but that was the last success the visitors tasted. Yusuf Pathan (18*) and Eoin Morgan (14*) sealed the chase in the 19th over. Delhi weren't aided by some shoddy fielding.