Chennai sneak last-ball victory
Chennai Super Kings 153 for 4 (Anirudha 64) beat Kolkata Knight Riders 151 for 7 (Kallis 54) by two runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
With the country still basking in the afterglow of a World Cup win, the IPL needed a nailbiter to grab the already sated fans' attention and there was one at the MA Chidambaram Stadium. Three-quarters through the game, Kolkata Knight Riders were walking to victory before a brilliant run-out from MS Dhoni helped Chennai Super Kings stay in it. Then, Jacques Kallis holed out attempting a cute paddle-sweep, Eoin Morgan was undone by the part-time spin of Suresh Raina, and Gautam Gambhir added another chapter to his book of crazy running to leave the capacity Chennai crowd sensing victory.
Even after the big guns of the Kolkata batting were gone, the target wasn't exactly out of reach. Though one more of Dhoni's gambles paid off with two massive wickets - Morgan and Gambhir - falling in Raina's 17th over, Kolkata still needed 33 off the final three overs. That boiled down to an even more difficult 26 off 12 deliveries after Tim Southee showed off his death-over skills with a tight over.
Time for another swing in the game as Suraj Randiv, on IPL debut, was hammered by Manoj Tiwary, the biggest name from Bengal in the side after the exit of Sourav Ganguly. After Laxmi Ratan Shukla's plucky reverse-sweep fetched him a boundary off the first ball, Tiwary slammed a couple of big leg-side sixes bring it down to nine off eight. Kolkata favourites at that stage.
To Randiv's credit, he fought back with the final two deliveries of the over. He switched to round the wicket and fired it quicker and wider on the penultimate ball, and then got the breakthrough on the last delivery, sneaking it past the outside edge to give Dhoni an easy stumping.
The tension-filled final over started with an outrageous stroke from Shukla, paddling a full ball from way outside off to square leg for a couple. Off Southee's next ball Shukla was caught at short-third man, leaving two new batsmen at the crease, and five needed off three. Iqbal Abdulla slapped one over midwicket for two, before Southee resorted to inch-perfect yorkers. It came down to four required off the final delivery; after prolonged discussions with the captain, Southee sent down an into-the-legs yorker which was too good for Rajat Bhatia. Only a single resulted and Dhoni's charmed run as captain continued.
A close game seemed unlikely when Kallis had been giving another demonstration of how Twenty20 batting doesn't need power-hitting. He capitalised when the bowler erred, highlighted by the fourth over from Southee. The bowler was too wide once, too short once and too straight once; each time Kallis dispatched him for boundaries, and as he guided Kolkata to 92 for 1 in 12 overs, Chennai's total seemed completely inadequate.
Chennai's strong batting hadn't made the most of a generous Kolkata fielding performance and the innocuous attack, which lacked any world-class bowlers. S Anirudha and Suresh Raina capitalised on three dropped chances to power Chennai to a strong 78 for 1, before Raina fell attempting a slog sweep. That slowed the pace down, and despite a six each from MS Dhoni and Anirudha off an over from legspinner Sarabjit Ladda, only 43 came between the 11th and 16th overs.
Chennai needed some big hits towards the end, but a series of slower bouncers from L Balaji and Kallis kept the runs in check. Albie Morkel showed off his strength hitting down the ground, muscling a four and a six off the final two deliveries to lift the score past 150. It hadn't seemed enough, but Chennai's spinners thrived on the turn available to ensure the new-look Kolkata side didn't get off to a winning start.
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo