Kolkata Knight Riders rode on a hurricane knock from opener Chris Gayle to get the better of Kings XI Punjab by 11 runs (D/L method) in a rain-curtailed Indian Premier League match in Durban on Tuesday.
Chasing 159 to win, Knight Riders were 78 for 1 after 9.2 overs when the heavens opened.
For the record, they required 80 runs of 64 balls, with nine of their wickets intact. And Gayle was unbeaten on 44, making most of his dual luck.
Knight Riders made a sedate start, the presence of two of the most explosive openers (Brendon McCullum and Chris Gayle) in their ranks notwithstanding.
Just nine runs came of the first two overs and, more importantly, Gayle (while on 2) offered a straightforward chance but survived - Karan Goel flooring a sitter at midwicket (of Yusuf Abdulla).
The blemish cost Kings XI dear as Kingsmead was soon hit by a 'Gayle' storm, the West Indies captain breaking free with a massive swing of Irfan Pathan that crossed the cover point boundary.
Two more sixes followed in Abdulla's second over -- one each from the blades of Gayle and McCullum. And by the time Irfan's third over commenced, the 'Gayle'storm had intensified.
The result: two boundaries and a six (over long-on) in the first three balls and 17 runs overall.
McCullum joined the party; smashing Vikramjeet Malik for a four and six of successive balls, the first shot bringing about the 50-run partnership.
However, Malik had the last laugh. McCullum in his attempt to cut loose, played a loose cut straight to Kumara Sangakkara's gloves.
The Kolkata skipper made 21 (of 16 balls, 1x4, 2x6) and his dismissal left his side at 57 for one.
Kings XI captain, in an attempt to cash in on the initial breakthrough, introduced Piyush Chawla into the attack.
And the UP spinner almost doubled the breakthrough with only his second ball, deceiving Gayle (on 32 then) with a googly and getting an outside edge. Sangakkara spilled the opportunity.
Nonetheless the introduction of Chawla put brakes on Knight Riders' scoring rate. The only significant shot in the next three-four overs was yet another maximum from Gayle (of Malik).
However, with Knight Riders' innings interestingly poised on 78 for one after 9.2 overs, the heavens opened again.
As the rain came down heavily and chances of play resuming hung in balance, there was some succour for Knight Riders, they were 11 runs ahead on Duckworth Lewis method.
Kings XI rally after early setbacks
Earlier, having come up second best in their opening matches, the teams did not tinker much with their respective line-ups, the Kolkata side making a lone change by bringing in Yashpal Singh in place of Ajit Agarkar.
While for Kings XI, it was partly owing to the lack of options, for Knight Riders, it meant keeping out the likes of Mashrafe Mortaza and Ajantha Mendis, the latter being a crucial omission, considering spinners have had considerable success so far in the tournament.
However, Knight Riders seemed to have their plans in place, as their lone spinner, Murali Kartik, came in to bowl as late as the 17th over.
The Kolkata side secured an early advantage, winning the toss and opting to field. McCullum made the right decision considering the overcast conditions in Durban. And he got an instant reward.
Ishant Sharma, who got considerable movement from his first ball, struck in his second over, getting Goel to edge one to Gayle at first slip.
Goel, who was so impressive in Kings XI's opening match against Delhi, failed to open his account this time. And that happened despite him facing as many as seven balls.
Yuvraj took a gamble by sending Irfan Pathan in at number three, even if that meant he had to drop down the order. Irfan smashed the first ball he faced to point boundary. And when he took 13 runs off five balls in Ishant's third over -- inclusive of a six to deep mid-wicket and a four at mid-wicket -- and dispatched Moises Henriques to the fence twice, Yuvraj's decision seemed vindicated.
Well, almost. For Irfan's innings was ephemeral. The introduction of Sourav Ganguly signaled the departure of the all-rounder. Irfan mis-timed the first ball he faced from Ganguly and Kartik made no mistake at deep midwicket boundary. Irfan scored off just 17 balls (5x4, 1x6).
Two balls later, Ganguly struck again, getting a thin edge off Ravi Bopara's bat and McCullum took a sharp catch.
Amid continuous talk (read criticism) of coach John Buchanan's multi-captain theory, Ganguly, the Knight Riders captain in the inaugural year, had given the incumbent (McCullum) reason to smile.
Bopara (15/15) again got a good start, as he did against Delhi, but failed to capitalize yet again.
The Punjab team had been reduced to 48 for three after seven overs and their captain made his way to the crease.
Yuvraj was sluggish to begin with. And almost gave away his wicket when he pulled a short delivery from Laxmi Ratan Shukla to deep square leg. Yashpal made a splendid effort to catch it but grounded the ball as he landed. And Yuvraj survived.
Even as the teams came in for a 'strategy break,' with Punjab at 67 for three, the heavens opened, albeit for a brief period.
The break seemed to have worked wonders for Kings XI in general, and their captain in particular. 14 runs came off the Ganguly over, the first after the break, with Yuvraj hoisting one beyond deep-midwicket boundary for the maximum.
The over helped the Kings XI innings get the momentum it needed and from then on it was consolidation -- a 56-run fourth-wicket partnership between Yuvraj and Sangakkara that came of just 45 deliveries.
But just as the partnership looked threatening, yet another chink in the Kings XI armour was visible -- the lack of understanding between the players.
On this occasion it was Sangakkara who paid the price, with Yuvraj not responding his call for a run.
The Sri Lankan made 26 of 24 balls, inclusive of a couple of hits to the fence.
Yuvraj vented his frustration on Shukla, hitting him for a boundary and a six of successive balls in the same over.
However, he didn't last long enough to make amends. A wild heave of Henriques went towards deep midwicket and on this occasion Yashpal made no mistake.
The Kings XI captain scored 38 of 28 balls (3x4, 2x6) but, more importantly, gave his wicket away when he was required to hang on.
Taruwar Kohli (1/4) went back to pavilion sooner than he had taken to come out of it, top-edging an Ashok Dinda delivery (and McCullum accepting it sans any gratitude).
Some lusty blows from Mahela Jayawardene's (31/19, 3x4 1x6) blade gave the Kings XI total -- a semblance of respectability.