Kolkata, April 8: Kolkata Knight Riders launched their title defence on a perfect note as skipper Gautam Gambhir and Suryakumar Yadav drove them to a seven-wicket win over Mumbai Indians in the IPL 8 opener here today. (Photo and reactions: Vinay breaks Gambhir's bat)
Chasing 169 for a win, Gambhir's 43-ball 57 (7x4, 1x6) led the KKR charge, while Suryakumar's unbeaten 46 off 20 deliveries helped them canter to their target in 18.3 overs.
But it was the 85-run second wicket partnership between Gambhir and No.3 Manish Pandey (40) that set up the chase. There was some respite after the visitors dismissed the duo but ironically they found their nemesis in a familiar Mumbaikar Suryakumar, who led Mumbai in Ranji Trophy this season. (Highlights of the match)
The talented youngster, who came in at 121/3 with 48 required from 34 balls, hit some sensational shots that included a four and 5 sixes. Yusuf Pathan was also unbeaten on 14. Corey Anderson, Jasprit Bumrah and Harbhajan Singh picked up a wicket each.
Earlier, continuing his dream run at Eden Gardens, Rohit Sharma smashed an unbeaten 98 to power Mumbai Indians to 168/3.
Put in, the visitors lost two wickets in three balls and looked shaky 37/3 after a fiery spell from Morne Morkel (2/18) but Sharma, who had struck an ODI world record 264 here in November last year, was again in his element.
Sharma dissected the field with elegance and picked Indian speedster Umesh Yadav as his bunny en route to his 22nd IPL half-century.
Sharma's 98 not out came from 65 balls studded with 12 boundaries and four sixes and was ably supported by New Zealand allrounder Corey Anderson, who remained unbeaten on 55 from 41 balls (4x4, 3x6) in a 131-run undefeated partnership.
After all the hoopla surrounding his action, Knight Riders trump card spinner Sunil Narine did not look in his usual self and returned wicketless with 28 runs from his four overs.
The West Indian looked under pressure and the umpire was seen talking to him during his second spell. Narine began with a widish full toss and the Mumbai skipper was quick to punish it for an easy boundary.
Sharma had earlier made his intention clear hitting Yadav for three boundaries in the third over. The star Indian opener was at his explosive best when he smashed three fours and one six as Yadav leaked 21 runs in the 15th over.
It gave the much needed impetus to MI run-rate that went under six after the three quick wickets and some clever captaincy by Gambhir.
While Yadav was expensive, Morkel was the pick of the lot and Gambhir made the South African speedster run through his quota of four overs from the High Court end.
Morkel dismissed Mumbai Indians star recruit Aaron Finch (5) cheaply when the Australian World Cup winning opener top-edged one to deep square leg and gave a second breakthrough in Ambati Rayudu (0) in his penultimate over.
In between, Gambhir cleverly brought in Shakib Al Hasan who foxed Aditya Tare (7) with his flight as the Mumbai wicketkeeper stepped out but only to mistime it to long off.
But he was severely let down by his fielders. Andre Russell dropped Corey Anderson on 23, a regulation catch at mid-on, while part-time wicketkeeper Robin Uthappa not only missed an outside edge of Sharma but missed a stumping when the Mumbai Indians skipper was on 70.