• Morkel shines in IPL opener

    Morne Morkel took two wickets as the Kolkata Knight Riders started the defence of their IPL title with a seven-wicket victory over the Mumbai Indians in Kolkata on Wednesday.

    Morkel was awarded the Man-of-the-Match award for taking 2-18 in his four overs as KKR restricted MI to 168-3 despite an unbeaten 98 from Mumbai captain Rohit Sharma.

    KKR coasted to a comfortable victory – courtesy of a stunning partnership between their skipper Gautam Gambhir and Manish Pandey.

    Despite losing the in-form Robin Uthappa early in the run-chase, KKR were put back on track almost immediately through a counter-attacking partnership between Gambhir and Pandey. While Gambhir initially ticked the strike-over, Pandey was on overdrive mode right through. The pair added 85 runs in 9.1 overs before Pandey (40 from 24 balls) holed out to Kieron Pollard at long-on, handing Harbhajan Singh his only wicket of the evening.

    A mistimed pull off Jasprit Bumrah – in the 15th over of the innings – resulted in Gambhir’s dismissal after a responsible knock of 57 (42 balls). The left-hander was cautious against the MI quicks, but stamped his authority on the spinners, scoring 44 runs off 23 balls against Harbhajan and Pragyan Ojha.

    MI attempted to pile the pressure on KKR soon after, with Lasith Malinga conceding only two runs in the 16th over. But Suryakumar Yadav’s blitzkrieg and his 49-run partnership with Yusuf Pathan ensured there were no further hiccups. The hosts got past the finish line in the 19th over; Yadav remained unbeaten on 46, while Pathan had 14 against his name.

    Lasith Malinga and Vinay Kumar were the most impressive of the MI bowlers, while the experienced Harbhajan and Ojha had a forgettable outing. MI will also rue the umpteen opportunities they let slip in the run-chase; there were at least five catches they let slip in the run-chase. Had they held on to everyone of those opportunities, the final outcome could have been entirely different.

    Earlier in the evening, the Mumbai Indians recovered from a precarious 37 for 3 to post 168 – thanks in main to an unbeaten 131-run partnership between skipper Sharma and Corey Anderson.

    Morkel justified his captain’s decision to put the visitors in to bat by striking twice early on. In an aggressive spell of fast bowling, Morkel – who registered an average speed of 144.3 kph – dished out several unplayable deliveries and returned with the wickets of MI opener Aaron Finch and Ambati Rayudu.

    Reduced to 37 for 3 within the first six overs, MI’s recovery came through a partnership between Rohit and Corey Anderson. Both batsmen took time to consolidate before stepping on the accelerator and seizing the initiative. While Anderson needed nine deliveries to get off the mark, Rohit crawled to 50 from 46 balls. The change of gears happened in the 15th over when the pair hit Umesh Yadav for three fours and a six, eventually milking 21 runs of the over.

    The pair was aided by some poor catching by the KKR fielders; wicket-keeper Robin Uthappa put down a difficult catch off Rohit, while Andre Russell and Morkel were guilty of grassing Anderson. The pair needed 55 deliveries to score their first 50 runs together and thereafter added a further 81 runs in 33 balls to take their team to par-plus total of 168 for 3.

    Sharma, who began the last over needing 7 to get to his century, could only score five in the over and remained unconquered on 98, while Anderson finished unbeaten on 55 from 41 balls.

    Morkel and Sunil Narine were the pick of the KKR bowlers, finishing with combined figures of 8-1-46-2, while the rest of the bowling line-up leaked 121 runs in 12 overs. The left-arm spinner Shakib-al-Hasan in particular came in for a lot of stick, conceding 48 runs in his four overs, though he accounted for the wicket of Aditya Tare.