Kolkata Knight Riders went into the match against Delhi Daredevils at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata as favourites, and put up the kind of performance that was befitting of a former champion. Fielding first, their bowlers exploited the conditions brilliantly as the pacers extracted lot of bounce out of the wicket. Then the spinners took over, and kept up the pressure, constantly picking wickets, thus ensuring that their team was always ahead in the game. With the bat, the KKR openers made sure there was no hiccup in store with a smooth opening stand. As for Delhi, it was yet another performance that would make the owners fear of another poor season ahead.
Like with Mumbai Indians in the opening game, the power play overs cost Delhi this time. Their batsmen just couldn't get into any sort of rhythm on a pitch helpful for bowlers, and the scorecard told the miserable story of their struggles. The decision to open the innings with Andre Russell proved to be a masterstroke as the West Indian all-rounder, who played the most important role in KKR's victory a couple of seasons back, sent back the top three cheaply. There were a lot of hopes from Quinton de Kock, but he failed as did Mayank Agarwal and Shreyas Iyer. At 31 for 3 in the fifth over, things seemed rather bleak for Delhi.
What Kolkata did excellently well after the initial success was not taking the foot off the pedal. Chinaman bowler Brad Hogg proved that even at 45, he is a force to reckon with at the T20 level. He bowled two good deliveries to have Sanju Samson caught behind and the promoted Pawan Negi stumped as Delhi kept sliding further down. All eyes were on Carlos Braithwaite as he looked to build on his World T20 success. But, Piyush Chawla proved that experience matters in this format as well, as he had the Windies all-rounder trapped lbw. Chawla also added another big wicket, that of Chris Morris in his kitty. It was a perfect bowling effort by KKR, as John Hastings also chipped in with a couple of scalps.
The only way Kolkata could have lost the game after keeping Delhi down to under 100 was if Kolkata batsmen got themselves out playing rash strokes. But, nothing of that sort happened. The Kolkata openers did well to play normally. They did not go on an all-out attack neither did they play a defensive game. The ball was treated on its merit, and Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa eased their team to success with typical stroke-filled knocks.
As expected, Delhi skipper Zaheer Khan lacked the pace and efficiency needed to make any sort of impression. It remains to be seen whether Delhi will continue to play him throughout the season. There was nothing much Delhi's bowlers could do as their batsmen had given them nothing to bowl with. Nathan Coulter-Nile tried hard, but could not build any sort of pressure. Amit Mishra and Braithwaite bowled well, but it only delayed the result. It was the worst possible start Delhi could have made to the season, and they have had some dreadful ones in the past.
-- By A Cricket Analyst