Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Kolkata Knight Riders 133 for 4 (Rahane 44, Bravo 3-20) beat Chennai Super Kings 131 for 5 (Dhoni 50*, Umesh 2-20) by six wickets
MS Dhoni, 40 and no longer captain, turned the clock back with a vintage display of death-overs hitting, but Chennai Super Kings struggled either side of that as a canny bowling effort on a two-paced Wankhede Stadium pitch set up a comfortable opening-day win for Kolkata Knight Riders.
All the Knight Riders bowlers contributed to restricting Super Kings to 131. Umesh Yadav was quick and incisive with the new ball, dismissing both openers, and mystery spinners Varun Chakravarthy and Sunil Narine were close to unhittable, finishing with combined figures of 1 for 38 from their eight overs.
Andre Russell and Shivam Mavi bore the brunt of Dhoni's punishment as Super Kings took 47 off the last three overs of their innings, but they had made an impact before that, teaming up with Umesh in hitting hard lengths and starving the batters of opportunities to access the short straight boundaries.
The chase was straightforward, even if Knight Riders endured a spell of 29 boundary-less balls. The target was never going to challenge them as long as they didn't lose a heap of wickets, and Ajinkya Rahane scored 44 while three others made twenties as Knight Riders got home with nine balls to spare.
Umesh bosses the powerplay
Umesh has failed to attract bids higher than his base price for two auctions running, and the reason could be that he can leak runs outside the phase he excels in. But he has a terrific record in that phase, the powerplay - a better record since 2018 than even Deepak Chahar, whom Super Kings spent serious money to retain for this very skill.
The ball swung early for Umesh, and a bit of dampness in the pitch also made his scrambled-seam ball nip around. Outswing got the better of Ruturaj Gaikwad, IPL 2021's highest run-getter, in Umesh's first over, and in his third straight over within the powerplay he dismissed Devon Conway, who, making his IPL debut, miscued a flick to mid-on while trying to break the early shackles.
Super Kings ended the powerplay at 35 for 2, and the bulk of their runs came from their No. 3 Robin Uthappa, who troubled the new-ball bowlers with his big shuffle across his stumps. It allowed him to access the leg side against balls that were marginally too straight, and he hit two fours and two sixes in this manner in rushing to 23 off 16 at the six-over mark.
Super Kings freeze in the middle overs
Varun Chakravarthy came close to taking a wicket in his first over when a bottom-edged sweep from Ambati Rayudu shaved the leg stump without disturbing a bail. He struck in his second over, however, a sharp leg-side stumping from Sheldon Jackson after a dipping wrong'un left Uthappa stranded outside his crease.
Super Kings were 49 for 3 at that stage, inside the eighth over, not a terrible position, but a moment of indecision from Ravindra Jadeja on his captaincy debut led to Rayudu being run out in the next over. Then Shivam Dube - who had narrowly avoided suffering the same fate as Rayudu after another mix-up with Jadeja - lobbed a catch to midwicket after a well-directed short ball from Russell cramped him on the pull in the 11th over.
The runs, meanwhile, were drying up. Super Kings got through 48 balls without a boundary before a misfield from Chakravarthy at mid-off allowed one in the 16th over. By the end of the 17th, Super Kings were 84 for 5 - it was their third-worst first-innings score at that stage of an IPL innings.
Dhoni blasts off
In the first 16 overs, the Knight Riders fast bowlers had made a clear effort to bowl a good length or just short of it. According to ESPNcricinfo's data, 48 of the 54 balls they bowled were in those areas, and only three on a full length.
The slog overs, however, put bowlers under pressure to not be predictable, and to slip in the yorker every now and then. With dew setting in, controlling the yorker became difficult: Mavi and Russell bowled four full-tosses in overs 18-20, and three of them flew to or over the boundary.
That apart, the late avalanche of runs was also down to Dhoni's still flickering late-overs genius. He used the depth of the crease to manufacture boundaries square of the wicket off Russell, and in the final over executed a bottom-handed whip of fierce power, off a near-yorker, to give long-on no chance.
Jadeja, boundary-less for the first 27 balls of his innings, ended it with a sliced six over the covers, and Super Kings had a total they could conceivably try and defend.
Rahane does the Rahane thing
This was the sort of chase Rahane is designed for: coast at close to a run a ball, ensure one end is locked up, and half the job is done. Rahane, making his Knight Riders debut, gave them just the start they desired. Perhaps in an effort to search for swing, Tushar Deshpande and Adam Milne erred on the full side in the early overs, and Rahane and Venkatesh Iyer hit five fours in the first five overs, four of them with front-foot drives. In between, Rahane also pulled Milne for a six that showed how quickly he was seeing the ball and getting into position.
By the end of the powerplay, Knight Riders were 43 for no loss.
Bravo muddies the waters, but Knight Riders cruise home
Introduced in the seventh over, Dwayne Bravo made an immediate impact by angling the ball away from Venkatesh's hitting arc and getting him to edge behind.
This brought another left-hander to the crease, Nitish Rana, and Super Kings began to miss Moeen Ali - who is serving his quarantine after visa issues delayed his arrival in India - for the second time on the night. They had missed his hitting ability against Knight Riders' spinners, and they were now missing his offspin.
After an expensive eighth over from the dibbly-dobbly Dube, Super Kings were forced to turn to one of their two left-arm spinners, and Rana immediately hit Mitchell Santner for six. But with two more Santner overs to go and with Jadeja yet to bowl, Rana fell off the last ball of the 10th over, taking on a slower bouncer from Bravo and failing to clear short fine leg.
With two right-handers at the crease, Santner and Jadeja combined to peg back the scoring rate, in the process also picking up the wicket of Rahane. He had done his job, though, and also shown clear intent to keep playing his shots in the middle overs, even nailing a reverse-sweep off Jadeja.
After that shot, Knight Riders went 29 balls without a boundary, before Sam Billings stretched out and swept Bravo from outside off stump to the square leg boundary in the 16th over. That shot eased the pressure that had built up; Knight Riders had needed 25 off 27 before Billings played it.
Billings made the task more straightforward for Knight Riders with a skip down the track in the 17th over to deposit Jadeja over wide long-on. He was caught on the boundary attempting another sweep off Bravo soon after, but he had shut the door on Super Kings by then.
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