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A perfect homecoming

- McCullum hits 40-ball 56 as Dhoni’s men cruise

Brendon McCullum on way to his 56, on Friday. A Telegraph picture

Ranchi: Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR)’s return to India in the IPL VII proved as inauspicious as their stint in the UAE last month. Having lost three of their five matches there, KKR suffered yet another defeat when they went down to Chennai Super Kings (CSK) rather tamely by 34 runs.

The 25,000 crowd that braved the weather and stayed at the JSCA International Stadium well past midnight, watched a rather one-sided match.

But it was a perfect homecoming for not only the CSK captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, but also for his team as this was CSK’s ‘home’ match.

While CSK notched up 148 for three in the rain curtailed, 17-over each, encounter after winning the toss, KKR performed pathetically and could muster only 114/9.

On a wicket that remained faithful to the batsmen despite the rain that lashed the city for an hour in the evening and delayed the start by an hour and 40 minutes, the KKR batsmen should take the blame for the debacle.

The back-to-pavilion march began with captain Gautam Gambhir run out on 6. And then the others followed without really putting up a fight. What prompted Gambhir to try for an elusive run in the third over, when his CSK counterpart Dhoni already had the ball in his hand, remains a mystery. The run out cost KKR dear and they never recovered from it.

Once Gambhir was out, Robin Uthappa was the only batsman who offered some resistance with a few big hits. All his efforts, however, turned meaningless when his team lost three wickets within a span of just six balls.

Veteran Jacques Kallis (4) was the first of the three. Trying to sweep a delivery off Ravinchandran Ashwin, he was caught by Mithun Manhas at deep backward square leg in the fifth over.

The first two deliveries of the next over from Ravindra Jadeja saw the return of Manish Pandey (1) and Shakib Al Hassan (0).

That effectively brought an end to the KKR story on Friday night. Having put them under huge pressure, Jadeja bowled intelligently and emerged with a figure of four for 12 in four overs.

Apart from Pandey and Shakib, the CSK spinner also captured the important wickets of Uthappa and Surya Kumar Yadav.

Uthappa did try to take the fight to the rival camp to some extent. His 38-ball 47 was studded with five fours and one six.

But hardly anyone else tried to share the burden. The only other batsman who reached double figures was Yusuf Pathan. Pathan hit three sixes off Ben Hilfenhaus in the 16 th over, but by then it was a little too late. Pathan scored 41 off 29 balls, with one boundary and four sixes.

Earlier, the might of CSK batting was on display as Dhoni’s men raced to 148/3 in 17 overs, despite some commendable efforts from KKR spinners.

Sunil Narine and Shakib did their best in the eight overs they shared, but it was certainly not enough to put a break on the CSK innings.

While Brendon McCullum (56) was the star performer in his 40-ball knock, the 70-run second wicket partnership that he shared with Suresh Raina (31) laid the foundation of the CSK innings.

Later, when they found it tough to attack Narine and Shakib, skipper Dhoni (22 not out) and Ravindra Jadeja (17) struck some quick singles and twos to keep the scoreboard ticking.

In the last over, Dhoni and Jadeja took 15 off Andrew Russell, who replaced Morne Morkel in the team.

While Narine and Shakib bowled their hearts out, Piyush Chawla and Vinay Kumar bowled a few loose deliveries, which were duly punished.

Vinay Kumar, however, gave a good account of himself in his third over. Shakib was the most successful bowler for KKR with two wickets.

McCullum displayed a penchant for pulling anything that fell short. Yet he was gifted such deliveries regularly. He hit two sixes and five fours and was finally out in the 15th over caught at deep point by Pathan off Andre Russell.