Skipper Rohit Sharma led from the front with a sparkling 84 as an inspired Mumbai Indians cruised to a six-wicket victory over Kolkata Knight Riders to open their account in the ninth season of Indian Premier League today.
Chasing a challenging target of 188 in the T20 match, Jos Buttler made the chase look easier, smashing his way to 41 off mere 22 balls and helped Mumbai Indians chase down the target with five balls to spare at the Eden Gardens.
Having stayed till the end, Sharma got his runs off just 54 balls, hitting 10 fours and two sixes in the process.
At a venue where he has scored centuries in the all three formats beside his epic ODI world record 264, Sharma did not put a wrong foot and looked in imperious form since kick-starting with a third ball six against Andre Russell.
Gambhir struggled to contain Sharma as he dissected the field with ease while the likes of Buttler (3×4, 3×6) and Mitchell McClenaghan (20 from eight balls; 3×6) put on useful partnerships.
There was a time when Mumbai Indians were in a spot with 101 required from 59 balls as KKR kept on attacking with their spin strategy.
In a tactical masterstroke, MI’s think-tank promoted the left-handed New Zealand allrounder McClenaghan who turned it around with two successive sixes against Chawla and followed that up with another slog over midwicket against rookie Kuldeep Yadav.
The cameo brought the required run-rate down and calmed Sharma’s nerves and he also found fine support from Englishman Buttler who hit Russell for two sixes and one four in a 18-run 16th over to inch closer to the target.
After Buttler’s departure in the third ball of the penultimate over, Sharma hit Russell for three boundaries in succession to make it one from the last over, a formality Kieron Pollard completed to bring the defending champions’ campaign back on track.
With six away games awaiting them, it’s a disappointing loss for Kolkata Knight Riders, who surprised by preferring young Indian chinaman Kuldeep Yadav over ace spinner Sunil Narine, who joined the squad yesterday and was rested.
Earlier, half centuries from skipper Gautam Gambhir and Manish Pandey lifted Kolkata Knight Riders to 187 for five.
Gambhir led by example with 64 from 52 balls (4×4, 1×6) and the skipper got fine support from talented youngster Pandey, who scored a rollicking 52 from 29 balls, to get the momentum going with a 100-run partnership from just 60 balls.
Feature image: IPL