IPL 2021: Clinical performance from KKR in their opening game

Brief Scores: Kolkata Knight Riders 187/6 (Rana 80, Tripathi 53, Karthik 22*, Rashid 2/24) beat Sunrisers Hyderabad 177/5 (Pandey 61*, Bairstow 55, Krishna 2/35) by 10 runs.

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) would be happy with the way they started their IPL 2021 campaign on Sunday. It was indeed a clinical performance from Morgan and Co. The Kolkata-based franchise made a strong start in their opening game against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in the traditional southern metropolitan of Chennai.

For starters, KKR posted a par total and bowled brilliantly to earn their first points in the tournament. On the contrary, the Sunrisers’ problem concerning the lack of finishers in the lower-middle order has continued to haunt them.

Despite Rashid Khan stepping up his game at different periods in the game, KKR did well to post a formidable 187-run total in the first innings. It proved to be enough for SRH, who fell 10 runs short in the end.

Here’s a look at the three major talking points of today’s game

KKR’s top-order shines in the very first game of the tournament

Contrary to most games in the last season, the top-order of KKR made a solid start this time around and it proved to be a big boost for them. Batting mainstay, Nitish Rana mixed caution with aggression during his morale-boosting 80-run knock at a healthy strike rate above 140. He set his intentions very clear right from the very first ball of the game after hitting a cover drive off Bhuvneshwar Kumar for four. The southpaw went on to hit 9 fours and 4 sixes during his knock.

After Shubman Gill and Rana added 53 runs in 7 overs, the latter stitched a 93-run partnership with Rahul Tripathi to lay a great foundation for the batters to come. Tripathi batted at an impressive strike rate of around 182 during his knock of 53. The way the right-hander attacked Mohammad Nabi set the tone of KKR innings after Rashid Khan got the prized wicket of Gill.

An inspired spell from Rashid Khan stopped the run-flow in the middle overs, however, a late flourish from Dinesh Karthik, who scored 22 off 9 eventually helped KKR reach a par score. The KKR wicket-keeper scored 15 runs off the final over to shift the momentum back to his side.

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SRH’s middle-order woes continue

After losing David Warner and Wriddhiman Saha early, Jonny Bairstow and Manish Pandey led SRH’s recovery. However, once Bairstow got out, the required run-rate kept going up. Despite scoring a half-century, Pandey struggled to the middle on most occasions. However, the bigger question which begs to be answered is:

Who is there to give the final flourish after number four for SRH?

Sending Abdul Samad at number seven was clearly a wrong decision if one looks at it from an impassioned standpoint. One who strikes at over 170, it wasn’t the ideal decision to make him sit inside the dugout until the final over of the chase. With Vijay Shankar and Nabi not being able to get Sunrisers over the line, their middle-order woes continue to affect their performances. It is high time for the team management to address the issue or it might once again come in their quest of winning the IPL for the second time.