Kolkata: Powered by an enterprising half century from skipper Gautam Gambhir and a cameo from Surya Yadav, defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders trounced Mumbai Indians by seven wickets in the eighth IPL opener at the Eden Gardens here on Wednesday.
Young gun Yadav (46 not out; 20b, 1×4, 5×6) and big hitting Yusuf Pathan (14; 12b, 1×4, 1×6) took KKR to a winning 170/3 with nine balls to spare as Mumbai skipper Rohit Sharma’s elegant unbeaten 98 went in vain.
The visitors had notched up 170/3 earlier in the evening before a 50,000-plus crowd at the giant colosseum.
Yadav and Pathan were involved in a rollicking 49-run stand of only 25 balls to kick start the Knights’ title defence with a bang.
Replying to Mumbai Indians’ formidable innings, KKR had a faltering start losing last year’s top scorer Robin Uthappa (9) with only 13 on the board in the third over.
The dashing opener had scored an incredible 660 runs to pilot the Knights to their second IPL crown last year.
But the gutsy Gambhir joined hands with young gun Manish Pandey to take the advantage away from the Mumbai side.
Pandey, who enjoyed a reprieve, was aggressive from the outset, while Gambhir started off cautiously, and then came up with some scintillating strokes.
The 85-run partnership was broken in the 12th over when Pandey (40; 24b, 2×4, 3×6) perished to a catch attempting a slog-sweep.
Gambhir (57; 43b, 7×4, 1×6) rode on three dropped chances, to race to his 50 in the 14th over. He, however, departed in the next over.
Needing 38 runs from the last four overs, Surya Yadav took the hosts closer to victory hitting three lusty sixes of Jasprit Bumrah to make the chase a run-a-ball affair.
Fittingly, it was Yadav who hit the winning runs with an elegant boundary through the extra cover off Vinay Kumar.
Earlier, riding on a brilliant unbeaten 98 by skipper Rohit Sharma, Mumbai scored a formidable 168/3 after put in to bat first.
In trouble at 37/3 inside the sixth over, Mumbai Indians took the battle into the opposition’s camp with the elegant Rohit (65b, 12×4, 4×6) stitching an unbeaten 131-run partnership with Corey Anderson (55; 41b, 4×4, 3×6).
Continuing his good run at the hallowed stadium where he had scored a record shattering 264 while playing for India in November, Rohit was at his elegant best hitting boundaries at will.
With the duo of Anderson and Rohit upping the ante the pressure on the hosts was evident as they spilled three catches. The visitors clobbered 88 in the last six overs to set the Knights a challenging asking rate of 8.45.
The Knights’ trump card Sunil Narine, bowling with a remodelled action, was wicketless conceding 28 in his four overs.
South African pacer Morne Morkel was pick of the bowlers with figures of 2/18.