It took a couple matches, but finally Kolkata Knight Riders got on board the IPL 5 points table with a 42-run drubbing of hosts Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. A spectacular batting collapse from KKR had threatened to prove decisive, but in the end a total of 165 was more than enough as L Balaji rocked Bangalore – who welcomed back Chris Gayle - with 4 for 18.
If the second half of the Kolkata innings was sloppy, the start to their defence of 165 was superb. Bangalore's run-chase was dented in the second over when Cheteshwar Pujara steered Jacques Kallis to Yusuf Pathan at slip, but the massive wicket came in the fourth over when Gayle top-edged Kallis to mid-on for an eight-ball 2. Suddenly 166 looked a long way off.
Virat Kohli caressed an impressive boundary past extra cover off Kallis but fell soon after, steering a simple catch to point off Balaji. The former India pacer's night was about to get better, as he clean bowled AB de Villiers with a peach of a delivery and picked up Mayank Agarwal who popped an easy catch to Gautam Gambhir in the covers. Balaji was tight, and showed the value of taking pace off the ball as a run-checking tactic as well as a wicket-taking option. The deliveries to get Kohli and Agarwal were slower, and the one that befuddled de Villers a quicker one that skidded off the surface.
At 33 for 5 the chase was over before it could begin. Balaji was denied a fourth when Shakib Al Hasan dropped Saurabh Tiwary at deep midwicket, but finished on a high when Daniel Vettori walked too far across the stumps and was bowled. Balaji's stellar analysis of 4 for 18, including a maiden, was his second four-wicket haul in the IPL and second-best performance after a five-for in 2008. From 60 for 6, Bangalore's innings faded away and they could only muster 123 for 9.
Kolkata needed their bowlers to raise their performance because their batsmen had fallen a few runs short of the total that was in sight when Gambhir and Kallis launched the innings and then when Gambhir and Manvinder Bisla were together. After a 15-minute delay owing to an electrical glitch, and on a Chinnaswamy surface offering pace and bounce, Zaheer Khan gave Kallis a few worries in the first over, drawing an inside edge followed by three wafts outside off stump. Kallis was soon purring however, courtesy two glanced boundaries and a classical cover drive - all off Zaheer.
Gambhir bullied Harshal Patel, pulling and cutting fours and shovelling off the pads for six in the fourth over, and then took two fours off Zaheer. Muttiah Muralitharan was welcomed by Kallis slog-sweeping him for six to bring up the team's 50 in 31 deliveries, and Gambhir ensured 13 came off the over by hitting a four over extra cover.
Vettori provided the breakthrough, getting Kallis to nick one to de Villiers, which brought Bisla to the crease. Immediately he was charging Vettori, though his first clean strike wasn't until Kohli came on and was subsequently hit for six first ball. Vettori and Patel were also swatted for sixes, and Bisla's arrival upped KKR's run rate significantly. Skipping out or slogging across the line, Bisla struck three sixes and two fours during his 29-ball 46, which ended when he was stumped off Murali.
From 125 for 1 in the 14th over Kolkata proceeded to implode, losing seven wickets for 40 runs in six overs to finish on 165. Yusuf lasted three balls before he cut Vinay to point, Gambhir slashed Zaheer to third man, Manoj Tiwary was caught at deep square leg, Ryan ten Doeschate swept to short fine leg, Shakib slogged to long-off, and Laxmi Ratan Shukla also went swinging. Astonishingly, they managed just one boundary between the 13th and 19th overs as Vinay Kumar bowled excellently for his 2 for 18 off four overs. Had it not been for a six and four in the last three balls KKR would not have reached 160. As it turned out, that didn't matter at all.