Kolkata Knight Riders 187 for 6 (Rana 80, Tripathi 53, Rashid 2-24) beat Sunrisers Hyderabad 177 for 5 (Pandey 61*, Bairstow 55, Krishna 2-35) by 10 runs
The Kolkata Knight Riders managed the first successful defence in the 2021 IPL despite a blip towards the end of their innings. They managed just 42 in their last five overs, but the 145 for 1 in the first 15 proved to be good enough on a dry pitch, which their bowlers exploited.
Eighty-or-nothing Nitish Rana had that eighty night on a track that didn't support his weakness: short and fast bowling. The selfless Rahul Tripathi scored an attacking fifty despite not batting at the position suited to him, opening the batting.
Defending about 20 fewer than what they looked good for, the Knight Riders' fast bowlers produced the big wickets and their spinners stifled the Sunrisers Hyderabad batsmen to seal the game. After Prasidh Krishna got David Warner early, Jonny Bairstow revived the Sunrisers chase with a 40-ball 55, but Pat Cummins got him out in the 13th over to leave Manish Pandey with a tall ask of getting 86 off the last seven. Pandey couldn't despite an Abdul Samad cameo at the end.
Sunrisers err, Rana cashes in
Dry pitches are what Sunrisers have built their successful model on. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Sandeep Sharma remain accurate before Rashid Khan drives home the advantage, but on this occasion both Kumar and Sharma got off to an error-filled start. While Shubhman Gill's struggle to bat at T20 pace continued from 2020, Rana made full use of the width provided by both the new-ball bowlers. By the time Gill was out despite seemingly having picked a Khan wrong'un, the Knight Riders still had 53 on the board in seven overs.
Tripathi, Rana punish Sunrisers
As often, Tripathi came out oozing intent. The second ball he faced, he went against the turn to hit Mohammad Nabi for a six over long-off. While Khan kept things quiet at his end, Rana and Tripathi kept attacking the others. They batted together for eight overs; only one of them didn't feature a boundary, and two of them went for more than one. At 145 for 1 in 15 overs, with Andre Russell, Dinesh Karthik and Eoin Morgan still in the shed, the Knight Riders looked set to bat the Sunrisers out of the game.
Sunrisers fight back
In the 16th over, Tripathi fell trying to hit his third six of the night, but it seemed like the perfect time for Russell to walk in. He announced himself with a four first ball, but Khan got him out in his customary one over at the death. The slowness of the pitch proved difficult for the batsmen coming in, with both Rana and Morgan falling to the offspin of Nabi in the 18th over. Karthik, though, arrested the slide with a nine-ball 22 to give the Knight Riders 28 more than what Mumbai Indians came close to defending in the first match in Chennai.
Prasidh dents the chase
Harbhajan Singh, playing his first IPL match since the 2019 final, almost had Warner the first ball he bowled to him but Cummins dropped him at point. However, in the next over, Krishna produced a beauty angling across Warner, getting the edge through to Karthik. With the left-hand batsman gone, the Knight Riders switched immediately to the left-arm spin of Shakib Al Hasan with immediate results, getting rid of Wriddhiman Saha first ball of the third over. The Sunrisers were 10 for 2 in the third over.
Bairstow keeps Sunrisers alive
With Pandey playing more of an anchor role in the chase, it was down to Bairstow to prevent being choked out by the Knight Riders' spinners; Singh, Shakib and Varun Chakravarthy. He brought up his 50 in 32 balls, taking the Sunrisers to 100 for 2 at the end of the 12th over. Pandey was 34 off 27 at the other end.
Cummins starts the final slide
Morgan went to his strike bowler in the 13th, and while the ball to get Bairstow wasn't flash, sometimes the short and wide ball does it just fine in T20s. Three metres either side of the man at backward point, and Bairstow would have got four more, but he found the man to perfection. The squeeze was on after that, and in Cummins, Chakravarthy, Shakib and Krishna, the Knight Riders had too much quality at the end for a suspect Sunrisers middle order.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo