Andre Russell made the most of a greenish Eden Garden's pitch and claimed three early wickets that helped Kolkata comfortably beat Delhi by a nine-wicket margin in their opening encounter of the Indian Twenty20 League on Sunday.
Kolkata's Captain, Gautam Gambhir, won the toss and opted to bowl first. The hosts had benched Shakib Al Hasan and Morne Morkel in favour of Russell and Brad Hogg and the decision paid rich dividends, as Russell struck in the third over of the match and dismissed the dangerous Quinton de Kock.
Four-balls later he compounded Delhi's woes and accounted for Shreyas Iyre without scoring. Delhi added just six runs before Russell was at it again and dismissed Mayank Agarwal for just nine.
The triple-blow left the side from the Capital struggling at 31 for three and they failed to find the momentum thereafter, as Hogg claimed three wickets and Piyush Chawla two, to restrict their opponents to just 98 runs in their innings.
Gambhir used Russell for only three overs, in the end, but it was enough to cripple Delhi, as he ended with impressive figures of three for 24. The all-rounder conceded just two fours in his spell, which also included eight dot balls.
Robin Uthappa and Gambhir, Kolkata's openers, refused to hand their opponents early advantage as they set about the chase. The duo added 69 runs in 9.4 overs and the opening stand made it increasingly difficult for Delhi to defend their meagre total. Uthappa slammed seven fours in his 33-ball 35 before he was dismissed. His departure brought Manish Pandey to the crease and he joined his captain to guide Kolkata to their first win of the 2016 season.
"We just have to adjust to any surface. That is where professionalism comes into play. It wasn't the fastest of wickets, it wasn't slow either. If I get a chance to bat, I'd go out there and do something destructive. When things are going your way, you need to find ways to stay up there. I thought the wicket wouldn't spin that much, but credit to Brad Hogg and Piyush Chawla for backing me up. Well played to captain and Uthappa as well," Russell said.
"In the end, 98 was too little to defend, irrespective of the kind of bowling riches Delhi had. Uthappa set the tone, Pandey finished it off, with Gambhir fighting and grinding his way through after a fiery start. This wasn't a perfect game by KKR, but if you can still manage to win as easily as they did, it can only point to how strong a force they can be."