As ODI World Cup-winning coach and captain, Trevor Bayliss and Eoin Morgan, went head-to-head in Chennai, it was resoundingly the younger of the two heads and frequent wearer of two caps, Morgan, which won the day. His Knight Riders charged to a 10-run victory over the Sunrisers, having set an above par target of 188 to win.
In truth, with 22 needed off the last over and 17 off the last ball, the victory was more comfortable than the 10 runs might suggest. Andre Russell’s final ball was pulled meatily over mid-wicket by Manish Pandey to reduce the arrears, but the game was already done and dusted.
David Warner had called the toss correctly and just as both winning captains had done in the first two matches, elected to bowl. But it was not to be third time lucky for Warner.
“I didn’t think there were that many runs in that wicket,” said the Aussie in his honest post-match appraisal. “They adapted really well. We just mis-executed a little bit [with the ball]. And the way that we lost two early wickets but fought hard through Jonny [Bairstow] and Manish, was good. They had some height in their bowling attack, it helped with the cross-seam balls”.
The Knight Riders built their victory in the early part of their 20 overs as Nitesh Rana and Shubman Gill raced to 50 without loss in the powerplay. Rana, particularly, looked imperious and untroubled with Gill very much in the supporting role as Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Sandeep Sharma and T Natarajan all lacked the pace to trouble them and often offered too much width.
Warner’s assessment of having mis-executed with the ball was accurate enough as each seamer struggled to gain control. As is so often the case, it took the introduction of Rashid Khan to apply the brakes and achieve a breakthrough.
His rapid googly knocked out Gill’s off stump as he aimed a mighty swing to leg. The young Punjabi opener had made 15 off 13 in the power play, emphasising just how dominant a role Rana was playing. The arrival of Rahul Tripathi further accelerated the KKR cause. A man who has twice slammed six sixes in an over in local cricket, he wasted little time finding most parts of the MA Chidambaram Stadium with 53 from 29 deliveries. Having raised his bat to acknowledge his fifty, however, he perished slicing a sweep and was well caught by Wriddiman Saha, although the wicketkeeper threw in a little diversionary juggling act to entertain us before snaffling.
At 156 for two, the best part of five overs remaining and the considerable punch power of Andre Russell and Morgan to come, KKR will have had the sniff of a 200 total in their nostrils. Alas for them it wasn’t to be. The Sunrisers belatedly found a little control as the Knight Riders’ middle order lost theirs.
Rana perished for 80 at the hands of Mohammed Nabi, Shankar at long-off taking the catch. Rashid Khan had been held back for Russell and he wasted no time first bemusing and then removing the West Indian. Neither Morgan nor Shakib Al-Hasan had a day to remember and only Dinesh Karthik was able to propel the Knight Riders to their final total of 187 for six – a score one suspects they would happily have taken having been put in, but that represented a disappointment given the platform built.
Batting honours to Rana and bowling honours to Rashid, whose impactful two for 24 at only six an over was a class above and he was well supported by his fellow Afghanistan international Nabi with two for 32.
The chase looked a tall order, more so still after both Warner and Saha perished with the score on 10. The pace of the excellent Prasidh Krishna cramped Warner as he looked to steer to leg, the edge carrying comfortably to Karthik. Four balls later Saha tried to cut one that skidded on from Shakib (had Saha been watching England?) and he chopped on to leg stump. Considerable cause for Shakib’s celebration, as he had struck first ball for his new team against his former team, which is no bad way to make a point.
There was to be no immediate collapse though, with Bairstow in as pugnacious a mood as ever. Together with Pandey, the Sunrisers stayed in touch until the battling Bairstow’s 40-ball 55 was terminated by Pat Cummins in the thirteenth over.
It left Pandey and his remaining partners with the task of getting 86 off the last seven. Well supported though he was by Abdul Samad, it did indeed prove too tricky despite the batsman’s impressive 61 not out.
With Cummins, Chakravarthy, Shakib and Krishna to call on, Morgan’s attack was too strong for the slightly shaky Sunrisers’ middle order.
Morgan, not surprisingly was delighted. “Really happy with the start. We were very happy with our score. We thought if we bowled half-decently we should get over the line,” he said. “I thought it was magnificent how the guys batted today at the top of the order – in particular Nitish and Tripathi. And the bowling too – couldn’t have asked for a better start. It was a tight game against a really tough side”.
With two IPL titles and a World Cup win, Trevor Bayliss will know that today was just the start of a long road with many twists and turns before it’s done. The floppy hat will be dusted down and ready to go again when the Sunrisers take on the RCBs in Chennai on Wednesday.