Two-time champions Kolkata Knight Riders started their 2021 IPL season with a win over Sunrisers Hyderabad in Chennai. KKR had been the clear favorites based on their past results (won 13 out of 20 encounters). But their deviating performance in the previous couple of seasons had left their fans wondering. The Hyderabad team – former IPL champions of 2016, have been struggling off late to find some winning form as well. Both teams wanted to start this new season on a positive, winning note.
Kolkata Knight Riders were set to bat first after they lost the toss. However, KKR had a shaky start, losing Shubhman Gill early, who made just 15 runs. Nitish Rana and Rahul Tripathi, however, consolidated KKR’s batting efforts. Their 93 run partnership, made in just 50 balls, propelled the Knight Riders to reach 146 in 15.2 overs, when Tripathi finally fell, caught behind.
KKR’s projected 200+ total was foiled by some excellent bowling by the Sunrisers bowlers. A few quick wickets towards the end led to the Knights ending their innings on 187. Sunrisers Hyderabad had a prolonged start, losing both their openers in successive overs. However, Johnny Bairstow, who is in prolific international form and Manish Pandey came out swinging. Their century partnership at the crease lasted for over 45 minutes, raising Sunrisers’ chances of scoring a maiden victory in their 2021 IPL campaign. However, Manish Pandey’s explosive innings (at a strike rate of 138) left the door ajar for the Hyderabad middle order, as they looked at a moderately difficult chase.
The Kolkata Knight Riders bowlers had different plans. They utilized the dew of the Chennai pitch to their advantage to dismantle the Sunrisers’ middle order. Pat Cummins, the Aussie quickster, was especially economical, conceding just 30 runs in his four overs. The Hyderabad tail-enders provided some hope for them, as Abdul Samad hit two sixes in the 19th over, and another in the last over. But, in the end, the target proved to be 10 runs too many for the men in orange, handing KKR their first win of the 2021 IPL season.
Ace batsman Nitish Rana was pivotal in the win for KKR. He was adjudged the most valuable player of this thrilling encounter because of his first half-century during the tournament. However, although the explosive batters from both sides completely dominated this match, the Kolkata bowling contingent did not disappoint, with crucial figures coming in from their pace battery. Even veteran all-rounder Shakib Al-Hasan pitched in with figures of 1/34 in his four overs.