Kolkata Knight Riders made a statement of intent with a surprisingly comfortable opening night win over defending champions Mumbai Indians at the Sheikh Zayed stadium in Abu Dhabi. It was just the third time in 13 matches that 2012 champions beat the men from Mumbai and it showed they will have a say in the title race this season. Here are three things we took away from the first match of the 2014 IPL.
KKR's bowling makes them a title threat
It was the bowling that let the Kolkata side down in 2013 and it was the bowling that was overhauled in the 2014 auction. On last night’s evidence, opposing batsmen are facing a heap of trouble.
Sunil Narine is unquestionably the best T20 bowler in the world and he tormented Michael Hussey in the process of finishing with figures of 4 for 20. Last year, batsmen could look for relief at the other end but Mumbai Indians had no such luxury.
Morne Morkel was nasty, short, and brutish – shattering Kieron Pollard’s watch with one that spat at the West Indies allarounder from just short of a length. Piyush Chawla bowled a bewitching in-between length that Ambati Rayudu and company never got to grips with. The fast bowler and the leggie combined to take 2 for 31 from seven overs. Mumbai Indians were slowly strangled by the pressure.
With Vinay Kumar, Shakib-Al-Hasan and Kallis in the mix (not to mention Yusuf Pathan) KKR have the range and variety of bowlers for all surfaces.
Kolkata finished seventh last year but with their revamped bowling attack, expect them to compete for the title again this season.
Kallis proves he still has much to offer
At the start of KKR’s innings, the commentators were discussing the best way to use Kallis. They concluded he had value on tough batting tracks when a good score would be in the 120 to 130 range. On good wicket with scores over 160, they thought KKR would be better off playing Ryan Ten Doeschate, whose career T20 strike-rate is a healthy 137.30 compared to Kallis’ 112.06.
Kallis started relatively slowly too, just a tick above a run-a-ball for his first 34 runs. At that stage, KKR were 86/1 after 13 overs and the commentators analysis seemed spot on. When Lasith Malinga dropped a sitter at fine leg to give the big South African a reprieve, you felt perhaps KKR would have been better off with Kallis walking back and Robin Uthappa walking out.
But a switch had been flipped. Kallis drove Pragyan Ojha inside-out over the covers to pick up four, then skipped down the track and thumped him over long-on for six. He ended the over with a swipe over midwicket for another six, one that brought up his half-century from 37 balls. Kallis had taken 32 balls to score 35. His next 19 came from 5 balls. The game was afoot.
By top scoring for KKR with 72 from 46 balls - giving him an eye-catching strike-rate of 152 – Kallis showed he has more to offer than his reputation. He backed up his batting with three steady overs with the ball and an athletic catch in the deep to end Rohit Sharma’s innings. It was a fine all-round performance that duly earned up the man-of-the-match award.
The hectic nature of the IPL may weigh on the 38-year-old Kallis as the season progresses, but for this night, he showed T20 can be a game for old men.
Mumbai Indians will regret letting Mitchell Johnson go
Lasith Malinga was Lasith Malinga and Zaheer Khan bowled a fine, tight opening spell, but the rest of Mumbai Indians bowlers did not threaten. Ojha, who is one of the top five wicket-takers in the history of the tournament, will have better days, but a large part of Mumbai’s title-winning run last season was Johnson.
The IPL was where he rediscovered his mojo - leading Sachin Tendulkar to prophetically declare that England would have problems if Johnson’s form continued through the Ashes – and he formed a potent one-two punch with Malinga. For all of Zaheer Khan's skills and experience, he cannot intimidate batsmen the way Johnson does.
The defending champions need Harbhajan to somehow relearn how to flight the ball and attack batsmen, rather than just work on containing them, to give Malinga an attacking foil. Mumbai’s batting is too deep not to fire as the tournament progresses but, as India has proved in international cricket, you cannot rely on batting alone to win you matches.
Updated Date: Apr 17, 2014 14:21 PM