Bhanuka Rajapaksa timed the ball well to slam a delightful half-century, while Arshdeep Singh picked three wickets as Punjab Kings opened their IPL 2023 campaign with a seven-run win via DLS method against Kolkata Knight Riders at the I.S. Bindra PCA Stadium on Saturday.
On a flat pitch and fast outfield, Punjab were threatening to score upwards of 200, reaching 100 runs in the first ten overs. But Kolkata, whose bowlers majorly struggled, picked four wickets in the second half as Punjab could make only 91 runs to end up at a score nine short of 200.
All of Punjab's batters got starts after being asked to bat first, but only Rajapaksa could reach his half-century, with the help of five fours and two sixes at a strike rate of 156.25. In reply, after the floodlights failure caused a delay of 25 minutes in the chase, Arshdeep starred with short balls to leave Kolkata at 29/3 in five overs. Despite late blows from Andre Russell, they reached 146/7 in 16 overs, only for rain to make an appearance. Kolkata were seven runs behind the DLS par score as rain caused a premature end to the game, resulting in their loss.
Punjab made an early breakthrough in the second over with Arshdeep getting a bit of extra bounce and cramped Mandeep Singh for room, who miscued the pull to deep mid-wicket. He closed the over by cramping Anukul Roy for room, getting him to pull straight to midwicket.
Nathan Ellis struck in the fifth over by having an impressive Rahmanullah Gurbaz miss a back-of-the-length delivery and hit the top of the off-stump. Nitish Rana and Venkatesh Iyer, coming in as an Impact Player for Varun Chakravarthy, got on to the resurrection job by taking a four each off Sikandar Raza.
When Rishi Dhawan, coming in as Impact Player for Rajapaksa, bowled the ninth over, Rana and Iyer used his shorter deliveries to hit three boundaries. But Raza came back in the next over to have Rana slashing straight to the backward point. Leg-spinner Rahul Chahar struck on the first ball of the 11th over as Rinku Singh slog-swept straight to deep mid-wicket.
With half the side down, Russell tried to wage a fightback with a six and four off Chahar and Harpreet Brar respectively. An eventful 14th over from Ellis produced 18 runs, including Iyer hitting a six off a no-ball. Moreover, Russell was dropped by Prabhsimran Singh running back from short fine leg just after he hit a four through mid-off.
Russell then hit a low full toss from Curran over mid-wicket for six and then ramped a short ball between backward point and short third man for four more. But Curran had the last laugh as Russell holed out to deep mid-wicket.
In the next over, Arshdeep had his third wicket with the short ball as Iyer guided straight to backward point. Shardul Thakur and Sunil Narine hit a six each before rain stopped proceedings, bringing the game to an early end.
Earlier, Prabhsimran began spectacularly, smacking two fours and as many sixes. He looked in fine touch, especially when using his feet to hammer Tim Southee for four through mid-off and three balls later, smacked a six over wide long-on.
But Southee had him on the final ball of the second over, strangling Prabhsimran down leg. Shikhar Dhawan got going with vintage cuts on consecutive deliveries in the fourth over off Southee before Rajapaksa took over.
Rajapaksa fearlessly danced down the pitch to hit Sunil Narine sweetly through the line for fours through extra cover and long-off, followed by a six down the ground in a 14-run fifth over, also bringing up Punjab's fifty.
Post the Power-play, Rajapaksa continued to be nimble-footed, swatting Shardul Thakur for four past the bowler and then hitting a pick-up six through the leg-side in the flamingo style. With the ball coming on nicely on the bat, Rajapaksa took boundaries with sweep and deft touch while Dhawan pulled and sliced with perfection as Punjab reached their 100 at the half-way mark.
After bringing up his half-century in 30 balls, Rajapaksa holed out to long-on two balls later off Umesh Yadav. Jitesh Sharma hit two huge sixes down the ground and over long-off in an 11-ball 12 before slicing to short third off Southee.
In the next over, Dhawan was castled while going across the line against a quicker googly from Chakravarthy. Raza, Curran and Shahrukh Khan hit boundaries in the far end for Punjab to go above 190.
Brief scores: Punjab Kings 191/5 in 20 overs (Bhanuka Rajapaksa 50, Shikhar Dhawan 40; Tim Southee 2-54, Varun Chakravarthy 1-26) beat Kolkata Knight Riders 146/7 in 16 overs (Andre Russell 35, Venkatesh Iyer 34; Arshdeep 3-19, Rahul Chahar 1-12) by seven runs (via DLS method)