Arshdeep, Rajapaksa lead Punjab Kings to victory in rain-hit game
Knight Riders, behind for most parts of the game, almost got to the DLS target thanks to Andre Russell and Venkatesh Iyer
Punjab Kings 191 for 5 (Rajapaksa 50, S Dhawan 40, Southee 2-54) beat Kolkata Knight Riders 146 for 7 (Russell 35, Arshdeep 3-19) by seven runs (DLS method)
For most of the contest, Kolkata Knight Riders were behind the run of play against Punjab Kings.
Chasing 192, they were 80 for 5, with victory looking like a bleak possibility. That's when Andre Russell and Venkatesh Iyer stitched together a partnership that appeared to take them ahead in the match for the first time. Russell's six and four off Sam Curran brought the equation down to 62 needed from 32 with the balance of power shifting. It also brought Knight Riders closer to the DLS target with rain hovering around Mohali.
But Russell fell next ball to Curran. Venkatesh perished in the next over. And the DLS ballooned beyond reach. Despite Shardul Thakur and Sunil Narine scoring 15 off five balls between them, Kings held on to stay ahead, and when rain finally stopped play, the DLS table showed the hosts were seven ahead, just enough to pocket two points in their season opener.
Knight Riders were behind the DLS target because of their loss of wickets up top. Arshdeep Singh was the wrecker-in-chief with the new ball, helping reduce Knight Riders to 29 for 3. He also dismissed Venkatesh later to finish with 3 for 19 in three overs.
Kings were excellent with the bat as well, especially Bhanuka Rajapaksa who made a 32-ball 50. His knock lifted Kings to 100 for 1 in ten overs, but they failed to get a boost at the death, finishing only on 191 for 5. At the time, it looked like a score that was just about par on a batting-friendly surface. In the end, it was enough.
Impact Player's impact
Rajapaksa was replaced by Rishi Dhawan, the bowling allrounder, for the second innings but the Sri Lankan had done the damage by then. He picked up from where opener Prabhsimran Singh left off in the afternoon. Rajapaksa was especially brutal against spin. He used his feet to attack both pacers and spinners, and overshadowed his captain Shikhar Dhawan who struggled to find much strike.
When Rajapaksa was out in the 11th over, he held up his end of the bargain for the Kings to post a big total. His replacement, Rishi, conceded 15 in the only over he bowled.
For Knight Riders, it was Varun Chakravarthy who was swapped out after the first innings. Varun bowled smartly to finish with 1 for 26 in four overs, but it was a given that Venkatesh or N Jagadeesan would replace him. When the Knight Riders were 17 for 2 in two overs, they opted for Venkatesh. He made 34 in 28 balls.
Inexperienced Knight Riders crumble
Knight Riders' batting always gave the impression that they would either impress magnificently or crash and burn. More so with their regular captain Shreyas Iyer also missing. They went with one of their most inexperienced top-six units, and both Mandeep Singh and Anukul Roy struggled against Arshdeep's accurate short-pitch bowling that was aimed at their necks.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz sparkled with three fours and a six to race to 22 off 16, but when he fell as the third wicket, the rest of the chase was an uphill battle. Nitish Rana made 24 in 17 and Rinku Singh was out cheaply too, leaving old hands Venkatesh and Russell to do the repair job.
Eventually, it was Curran who brought the breakthrough with a short ball that had Russell pulling to midwicket. Narine and Shardul gave Knight Riders a brief glimmer of hope, but that was about it.
A solid Punjab Kings performance
Kings were inserted in at the toss, and Prabhsimran's 12-ball 23 was the perfect start for them. Even though Shikhar was starved for strike, it didn't impact Kings' scoring rate because of Rajapaksa's assault, especially on Narine. In all, Rajapaksa muscled five fours and two sixes to reach his half-century in 30 balls.
After his dismissal, Jitesh Sharma took over, smacking 21 in 11. Even when Varun bowled Shikhar for 40 to make it 143 for 3 in 14.3 overs, Kings aimed for 200-plus. But a couple of quiet overs from Varun restricted their progress. Raza, Curran and Shahrukh Khan put together small cameos to score 53 in 37 balls between them at the death, and even if that left Kings a little disappointed, Arshdeep's new-ball spell in the second innings ensured their victory.
Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx