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Cricket news - Rana, Tripathi lead way for KKR's winning start

Rana scored a 56-ball 80 before he fell after a 93-run stand with Tripathi.

Rana scored a 56-ball 80 before he fell after a 93-run stand with Tripathi.

Half-centuries by Nitish Rana and Rahul Tripathi set the base for Kolkata Knight Riders' 10-run win in their opening encounter of IPL 2021 in Chennai on Sunday (April 11). On a day when their star-studded international batters failed to shine, their young brigade led the way. Manish Pandey and Jonny Bairstow stroked fifties as well, along with a late cameo from Abdul Samad, but a scratchily-paced run-chase undid their efforts.

Who set up the initial pace for KKR?

Nitish Rana

Never in the last six IPL innings has the left-hander got off the mark and failed to score a fifty. Amidst every alternate dismissal on a duck, there comes a knock that remains a consistent reminder as to why he is one of the finest uncapped players in the tournament currently. Up against arguably the best bowling attack in the competition, Rana set the pace with his early blitz, picking five boundaries off Sandeep Sharma's first two overs. He opened up his entire range of strokes, while Shubhman Gill played the secondary role in the opening partnership, which yielded 53 runs in 7 overs.

He used his cricket smarts, targeting the short boundary and also took advantage of the breeze, but also had his share of luck with the edges not hitting the stumps. He even had a leg-before decision overturned when his attempt to reverse sweep Rashid Khan only resulted in him under-edging the ball onto his pads. Nonetheless, the regular flow of boundaries and an equal hand from the other end ensured that the scoring rate hovered around 10 runs an over mark even through the middle period.

What was happening at the other end?

Rahul Tripathi was keeping pace.

Despite having a slew of hitters and ample depth in batting, Tripathi was sent in to bat in the eighth over at one drop. The youngster, however, justified the decision immediately, dispatching Mohammad Nabi over the long off fence for a six. His pace of scoring was not only faster than Rana but also classier, and more clever. In the 15th over, he smacked two boundaries and a six off Bhuvneshwar Kumar, bringing up his sixth IPL fifty - this time off only 28 balls. He departed off the next ball top-edging a swipe off T Natarajan, with Wriddhiman Saha taking a fine catch running behind.

Returning in the death

Coming on to bowl his final over, in the 17th of KKR's innings, Rashid Khan sprayed a fast googly down the leg side, which missed the keeper and went for a four. The scorecard at that point read: 157 for 2 in 16 overs. With Russell, Eoin Morgan and Dinesh Karthik left, along with a set Rana, 200 was comfortably on the cards. However, SRH turned the tide around.

KKR batters struggled to pick Rashid's variations and Russell ended up mishitting his shot to Manish Pandey at long on. Nabi, who had conceded 25 off his first three overs, dismissed Morgan and Rana off successive deliveries with his fast offbreaks. T Natarajan conceded only 7 runs off the penultimate over and in the 18 balls since the wide, KKR managed to pick only 16 runs. KKR's attempts to go hard at the ball was backfiring. Dinesh Karthik though, adopted a more effective approach and relied on picking the gaps instead. His late cameo of 9-ball 22* helped Knight Riders post a challenging 187 for 6.

How did SRH respond?

Even before David Warner and Wriddhiman Saha could explode, KKR nipped the threat in the bud early. Prasidh Krishna cramped the SRH skipper for room and picked the outside edge of his bat to the 'keeper - only his third IPL powerplay wicket in 24 innings. Saha followed soon after, inside-edging Shakib Al Hasan onto the stumps. Jonny Bairstow and Manish Pandey struggled to find any timing as they managed only 35 for 2 in the powerplay.

Who took the chase deep?

Jonny Bairstow and Manish Pandey

The middle overs was the most important phase for SRH as Bairstow and Pandey revived Hyderabad's chase. It began with Pandey carting a six off Shakib right after the powerplay, but it was Bairstow's assault against Andre Russell - a six and two fours - in the next over that really flipped the momentum. Till the 12th over, they picked at least one boundary each to bring down the required rate. The duo added 92 runs for the third wicket in 65 balls before Bairstow was out cutting Pat Cummins to the fielder at point in the 13th over.

What was the climax like?

For most parts of the last few overs, KKR were marginally ahead in the contest, especially with Pandey and Vijay Shankar failing to hit ample boundaries. Abdul Samad hit some lusty blows, hammering 16 runs off the penultimate over bowled by Cummins, but it proved too little, especially with 22 runs needed off the last over. Russell, who had conceded 15 off his first over, was effective with his full-pitched deliveries from round the wicket. He kept the batters guessing with his lines - which were either on the stumps or wide outside off. Pandey pumped the last ball for a six, but they still finished 10 runs short of KKR's total.

Where do they go from here?

Kolkata Knight Riders will be up against Mumbai Indians, a team that has had an upperhand against them traditionally, two days later. Sunrisers Hyderabad will have a longer break as they will next play on April 14 against Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Brief Scores: Kolkata Knight Riders187/6 in 20 overs (Nitish Rana 80, Rahul Tripathi 53; Rashid Khan 2-24, Mohammad Nabi 2-32) beat Sunrisers Hyderabad 177/5 in 20 overs (Manish Pandey 61*, Jonny Bairstow 55; Prasidh Krishna 2-35, Pat Cummins 1-30)by 10 runs.