The Indian Premier League is alive and kicking.
Any doubts about its success in the post World Cup scenario was put to rest on Day 1 of the fourth edition. All the elements of drama that has made the IPL the biggest form of entertainment during Indian summer was there as Chennai Super Kings eked out a two-run win against Kolkata Knight Riders.
Manoj Tiwary (27) had brought KKR back with a couple of sixes in the 19th over chasing 154 but once Suraj Randiv removed him in the same over, KKR needed nine off the last. Tim Southee bowled full and straight in the last over and despite the desperate efforts of SRK’s boys, Dhoni & Co got off to a winning start.
KKR, at one point seemed to be cruising with 93/1 off 12 overs with Jacques Kallis and Yusuf Pathan well entrenched. But a moment of magic from CSK skipper Dhoni turned things around.
Kallis played one towards square leg and ran for a single. Dhoni saw the chance, chased the ball like a hungry leopard, picked it up and threw down the stumps at the batsman’s end leaving Yusuf a few inches short. KKR, chasing 154, lost the plot and wickets tumbled in a heap.
The moment Yusuf got out, Dhoni got his two best bowlers, offie Randiv and R Ashwin into action. Both brought all their skill into play, using subtle variations of flight and Kallis (54), who looked in complete control till then, failed to keep a sweep down off Ashwin and gave a catch to short fine-leg.
KKR skipper Gautam Gambhir, quite inexplicably, held himself back till No. 6, and once he got out following a mix-up with Tiwary, things started going downhill for KKR. Yet, Tiwary did his best, but he too, lost his head and SRK had to digest the bitter pill of defeat once again.
Earlier, KKR fielders missed three easy catches which let CSK off the hook.
The defending champions had just started when Anirudh Srikkanth (64 off 55 balls) offered a dolly to Yusuf Pathan off his own bowling. The all-rounder failed to latch on the offering and the batsman made the most of it. His effort was the backbone of the CSK innings after M Vijay was dismissed early by left-armer Iqbal Abdullah.
The next drop occurred a couple of overs later, with Pathan being the culprit again.
Gambhir had just brought in L Balaji and Suresh Raina, just settling in the crease, mistimed a pull to offer Pathan a chance at mid-off. The second highest-paid player of IPL 4 jumped in the air, got his hands to it, only to floor it again to give Raina a second chance. That helped Raina stitch a 75-run partnership with Srikkanth in nine overs to set the platform up for the rest of the CSK batsmen.
However, the ball before Raina got out, Srikkanth had offered another simple chance to Eoin Morgan, Pathan being the bowler on this occasion, but the England player dropped him at deep midwicket.
Given two lives, Srikkanth settled in nicely, played a few crisp shots and kept the scoreboard ticking. And when skipper MS Dhoni joined in, things really started to roll for CSK. The skipper, still on a high after his brilliant innings in the IPL final, waited for the right moment to launch a brutal assault. He singled out leg spinner Sarabjit Ladda and hit a couple of huge sixes in the 15th over and CSK were up and running.
And by the end of it, MSD’s all-round effort made the day for the CSK fans.