We will be reminded time and again via highlights reel how the IPL is the breeding ground for the best fielding in the known universe, but what will not be mentioned is that on the opening night of its eighth edition seven catches were dropped. Kolkata Knight Riders let three slip, Mumbai Indians outdid them, and fittingly the defending champions got their campaign off to a victorious start.
Morne Morkel was the one outstanding player on a night of otherwise unremarkable cricket, bowling four overs in one go for 18 runs and two wickets. That start from Morkel meant Mumbai were stifled for more than half of their innings, and despite the 88 they scored in the last six overs they were about 20 light. Helped by the sloppy fielding and ineffective bowling, Knight Riders were efficient in the chase with Gautam Gambhir
scoring a fifty, and Manish Pandey and Suryakumar Yadav chipping in with forties.
Knight Riders, especially at home, have relied on their superior bowling - if not to take wickets, at least to restrict sides and force them into making mistakes. Rohit Sharma
, who scored 98 not out, was fluent right from the start, but Knight Riders were all over the rest of the top order. This was Rohit's 10th fifty-plus score in an IPL defeat, the most by any batsman. Aaron Finch top-edged Morkel to put a brake on the runs. Aditya Tare chipped Shakib Al Hasan straight to long-off, neither looking to keep the ball down nor looking to hit a six. This wouldn't be Tare's last mistake on the night.
Tare's wicket in the fifth over was a cue for Gambhir to go all out looking for wickets. Morkel bowled the sixth over with slips in place for Ambati Rayudu. Two balls in, Rayudu obliged, edging a short-of-a-length delivery straight to first slip. The wicket-maiden made it 37 for 3 after six. This is usually time when Knight Riders drive the nail in. They went to the returning Sunil Narine. He might not have looked as effective as he did with his old action, but this might be too early to pass judgement on that. His four overs still conceded only 28, playing an important part in keeping Mumbai down to 80 for 3 after at the end of the 14th over.
In the 15th over Rohit opened up, punishing some gentle length bowling from Umesh Yadav. Anderson had already been dropped at deep midwicket by Andre Russell. Rohit would soon be let off by wicketkeeper Robin Uthappa. In all the two batsmen would add a total of 60 runs since being dropped, but that was about to be overshadowed in the chase. If Mumbai carried any momentum from their finish, they lost it immediately with Tare dropping Gambhir for 1.
Uthappa was dropped too, but Anderson made sure he didn't cost Mumbai much. When Anderson next dropped somebody, it proved costlier. With Pandey chipping Harbhajan Singh down long-off, Anderson misjudged, ran in too far, and managed to get just one hand to it. Knight Riders were 74 for 1 in nine overs; this was the time when Mumbai would have hoped to sneak back in, but they kept letting it slip.
Gambhir kept hurting Mumbai, punishing every error with the ball, of which there were quite a few as bowlers other than Lasith Malinga and Vinay Kumar failed to stretch the batsmen. By the time Gambhir was dropped next, a tough chance off his own bowling by Harbhajan, the ricochet took him to a four that brought up his fifty. They needed just 57 off 40 now, and Suryakumar settled any remaining nerves with some clean flicks off the pads, two of them going all the way for six.