Narine spins Kolkata to win in opener
Kolkata Knight Riders 129 for 4 (Gambhir 41, Kallis 23, Tiwary 23) beat Delhi Daredevils 128 (Jayawardene 66, Narine 4-13) by six wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
In 2008, Brendon McCullum had set the inaugural edition of the IPL alight with a whirlwind century that stands out for its audacity after more than 300 games in the tournament over five years. Not many will remember the exploits of his team in the opening game of IPL 2013 five years from now, but Kolkata Knight Riders' performance was a dominating one for the conditions they played in as defending champions. On a slow Eden Gardens track that didn't always cater to power-play, Sunil Narine and Rajat Bhatia restricted the Delhi Daredevils batsmen and captain Gautam Gambhir anchored the bulk of the chase.
Mahela Jayawardene, the Daredevils captain, got what he wanted at the toss when Gambhir elected to bowl, but Knight Riders snatched the initiative as early as the first ball. Unmukt Chand, a rising star in Indian cricket and fresh from back-to-back tons in India's domestic T20 tournament, was beaten by a lovely outswinger from Brett Lee that knocked out off stump. The sight was a delight to a capacity crowd and there were more such instances of batsmen proving clueless against a bowler in a format that's usually one-way traffic, the other way around.
Narine had played a pivotal role in Knight Riders' victorious season in 2012, and his variations were just as confounding for the batsmen. David Warner was baffled by a sharp offspinner that he edged to slip, West Indies team-mate Andre Russell was caught napping against a doosra, and Irfan Pathan holed out playing a flighted delivery to the hands of long-off.
Jayawardene, however, looked in control, adapting expertly to the approach the pitch demanded, restraining himself from playing expansive shots to rely on touch-play, all the while remaining fluent at one end. Lee was upper-cut over slips, Bhatia and L Balaji were steered through the off side before Lee returned for a final spell to be pulled for six, though, again, with more politeness than venom. Jayawardene helped stretch the score to 128 with a late surge, but Bhatia and Balaji, who bowled eight overs together, conceded 43 and picked up two wickets, had played an excellent containing role with their medium-pace and unsettling cutters before that.
A sense of urgency was more evident in Gambhir's start to the chase, as he stepped out to smack Irfan for a four and a six in the third over, the latter clearing long-on. He then targeted Umesh Yadav for two consecutive fours, while Jacques Kallis at the other end was finding the boundary with lesser effort, timing the ball gloriously, a punch down the ground off Ashish Nehra standing out. The pair added 47 in less than six overs, a mix-up that resulted in a run-out chance that was missed by David Warner being the only serious scare.
Gambhir ensured a steady run-flow after losing Kallis; the singles came easily with Manoj Tiwary, there were boundaries pierced by late-cuts through gaps on the off side, and enough lapses in the field by Daredevils to keep Knight Riders well ahead of the asking rate.
Gambhir and Tiwary fell in quick succession, but Knight Riders were in control of the chase when they needed 29 off 30 with six wickets in hand. Eoin Morgan and Yusuf Pathan saw to it that the task was completed without any fuss, some quick running and a straight six off Russell relieving any pressure in a low-key beginning to a long IPL season.
Siddhartha Talya is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo