|Man of the Match Irfan Pathan celebrates after scoring the winning runs,
at the Eden, on Thursday. A Telegraph picture
Calcutta: ‘New Dawn, New Knights.’
That is the tagline of the Kolkata Knight Riders in this Indian Premier League season. It categorically means that the Knights are trying to move away from their past, which was embroiled with controversies and which saw them finish in the top-four only once in last season.
It also means they were dreaming of a new beginning this season.
Unfortunately, the wish for the ‘new dawn’ was restricted to the hoardings as the Knights lost their opening battle against the Delhi DareDevils. And it was a pretty meek surrender.
After bundling out the hosts for a mere 97 runs, Delhi won the match by eight wickets and with five balls to spare. The match was curtailed to 12 overs after a thunderstorm hit the Eden early in the evening.
For Delhi, Morne Morkel was the most impressive of the bowlers. In his stipulated three overs, he picked up three wickets and gave away only 18 runs.
Roelof van der Merwe and Umesh Yadav also chipped in with two wickets each. After the bowlers did their job, the task of the Delhi batsmen was quite easy. But they had to keep their calm. They did just that and never looked uncomfortable while chasing the target.
Opener Aaron Finch took measured risks before being bowled by Jacques Kallis for 30 (27 balls, 5x4). His cover drive off a Merchant de Lange delivery was a treat to the eyes.
Delhi captain Virender Sehwag (20) also looked at ease with himself. Although it was difficult to judge his form in the curtailed match, he never seemed to be out of touch. He middled the ball and hit a magnificent six off an Iqbal Abdulla delivery.
But he perished when Abdulla took a brilliant catch at long on to dismiss him off a Rajat Bhatia delivery.
With the score on 57 for two in 7.2 overs, the Knights still had a chance. But a determined Irfan Pathan brought out his best to score 42 off 20 balls to take Delhi home. His two sixes off De Lange might not have enthralled the Knights’ fans who had thronged the stadium, but it did delight the Delhi camp.
Earlier, the fact that the Knights managed to score a decent total was because of a late flourish from Laxmi Ratan Shukla. Debabrata Das too played a nice little cameo to help his team.
While Laxmi scored a quickfire 26 off 17 balls, Debabrata stroked 18 off 9 balls.
Laxmi struck two towering sixes in his innings. One came off spinner Van der Merwe, over the covers, while the other was over long on off a Glenn Maxwell delivery.
Debabrata, although struggling initially against the pace of Morkel, also hit two sixes. His six through long on off a Morkel delivery was excellent to say the least.
But then, the damage was already done. The Knights lost wickets at regular intervals and that never helped their cause.
Opener Brendon McCullum started well, hitting two boundaries — he came down the wicket to hoist Irfan for a boundary through long-on and then pulled spinner Van der Merwe for a boundary. But the wicket-keeper batsman was trapped in front of the wicket in the very next ball while attempting a similar shot.
For Delhi, Irfan started the proceedings. But he didn’t have an impressive first over when he leaked nine runs.
Sehwag’s brought Morkel in the third over and that paid dividends.
Though Knights’ captain Gautam Gambhir stroked the pacer for a boundary through mid-on in his second ball, the South African did not lose heart. He went on to castle Kallis and Manoj Tiwary in two consecutive deliveries to put the home team on the back-foot.
Debabrata then launched a brief fightback before he was run-out. Laxmi stroked a ball through mid-wicket and went for the run. While a second run was on, Laxmi was guilty of ball watching, resulting in a mix-up which saw Debabrata stranded.
Then, Laxmi’s desperate batsmanship threatened to take the attack to the opposition. But as they say, it was too late and too little.