Kolkata Knight Riders started their title defence on a confident note. They comfortably defeated Delhi Daredevils by six wickets in the opening encounter of the sixth edition of Indian Premier League, in Kolkata, on Wednesday.
A clinical bowling effort saw KKR restrict Daredevils to a modest 128 in 20 overs and then chase down the runs with eight balls to spare, on an Eden Gardens strip which batsmen found difficult to score freely.
Mystery spinner Sunil Narine, with brilliant figures of 4/13, kept Daredevils under a tight leash, while skipper Gautam Gambhir steered the defending champions' run-chase with a useful 42.
Jacques Kallis (23) and Manoj Tiwary (23) were involved small but useful partnerships as KKR pulled off the chase despite losing a few wickets towards the end.
Ashish Nehra provided Delhi an early breakthrough, dismissing Manvinder Bisla (4), but Gambhir and Kallis added 47 runs for the second wicket before the South African veteran was holed out in the deep as he failed to punish a rank long-hop from left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem.
Gambhir got the innings off to a flying start, slashing Irfan Pathan over point for a boundary, and then lofted the bowler over long-on for a six.
Once Kallis was gone, the Gambhir-Tiwary duo added another 41 runs before a quicker one from Johan Botha caught the left-hander on the wrong-foot.
Gambhir's 42 came off 29 balls, with five fours and a six.
Tiwary's run-a-ball 23 came to an end when Nadeem (2/22) got his second wicket. Yusuf Pathan (18 not out) and Eoin Morgan (14 not out) completed the formalities with minimum fuss.
Earlier, KKR rode on Narine's 4 for 13 to bundle out a depleted Delhi Daredevils for a none-too-impressive 128, none of the batsmen, save skipper Mahela Jayawardene, able to make a substancial contribution.
Jayawardene gave Daredevils' total respectability as his sensible knock of 66 off 52 balls helped them reach a total of 125-plus. He hit eight fours and a six in his innings.
Everything went as per Gambhir's plan after he won the toss and opted to field.
Brett Lee gave KKR the ideal start, cleaning up Unmukt Chand (0) with the very first ball of the tournament, while Narine and Rajat Bhatia (2/23), with his military medium pacers, suffocated the visitors in the middle and kept chipping away at the wickets.
The absence of big guns like Virender Sehwag and Kevin Pietersen really hurt Daredevils' cause, as none other than Jayawardene and David Warner (21) could post double-digit scores.
Only once did Daredevils dominate the KKR attack -- when Jayawardene hit Lee for a six and four in the penultimate over, only to be dismissed off the next ball as the innings was all but over for the visitors.
Lee brought the packed stadium alive with an away-going delivery that beat Chand all ends up and crashed into his stumps.
Skipper Jayawardene then steadied the ship with a 44-run second wicket stand with Warner.
The duo played some intelligent cricket, taking a four in every over, as they kept the run-rate above eight-run mark.
Mystery spinner Narine, who was instrumental in KKR's triumph last season, came to haunt once again when he dismissed dangerman Warner (21), who couldn't negotiate the turn and bounce, giving Kallis the easiest of catches at first slip.
The dismissal was enough to bring the run-rate down and Jayawardene waged a lone battle with wickets falling at the other end at regular intervals.
Image: Sunil Narine