In what was the first signs of this being Groundhog Day, the captains walked out for a toss that was purely academic. Daredevils wanted to defend because they don't want their inexperienced batting active in decisive moments, Knight Riders wanted to chase because they last lost chasing at Eden Gardens in 2012. Sanju Samson then continued his schizophrenic IPL: bomb the quicks, go comatose against spin, and then find yourself under pressure and either kick on or fail. Failure is likelier if you keep putting yourself under that pressure, and it didn't help that Chris Morris, Rishabh Pant and Corey Anderson couldn't do much either.
Narine pulls them back
Samson once again displayed his outrageous talent of clean striking and raced away to 25 off nine balls. Then came Sunil Narine with a record of 56 balls against Samson, Karun Nair and Anderson for just 49 runs and three wickets. On cue he produced his first Powerplay wicket this season: Karun Nair, out sweeping. Daredevils 48 for 1 in the fifth over.
Slow bowlers, slower batting
Samson has scored just 81 runs off 76 balls of spin this season. Against pace he has looted 203 off 119. It was a mild surprise Narine was not introduced sooner. Brakes came on immediately with either Narine or Kuldeep Yadav manning one end in the middle overs. The result was a partnership between Shreyas Iyer and Samson that reached 50 in 7.3 overs. Forty-six legal deliveries went without a hit to the fence. Every such delivery meant one fewer for the big hitters to face.
When Samson scored his hundred this season, he went through a similar pattern: a flying start of 35 off 19, then only 13 off the next 19, and then the final kick. Against Knight Riders in Delhi, he did the same, going from 27 off 12 to just 13 off the next 13 balls. Here, too, he put himself under pressure of going big in the end. Like in Delhi, he failed to kick on here, scoring just 35 off the last 29 balls he faced, despite two late sixes.
Iyer's innings was more damaging. He found himself in a desperate situation after scoring 18 off the first 21 balls he faced. They both tried to go hard the moment Colin de Grandhomme was introduced in the 13th over, but Daredevils needed something big from them or from Morris, Pant and Anderson to salvage the situation.
Pace stifles Daredevils
Umesh Yadav got Samson lbw with one that swung back in. Needing quick runs Samson was caught playing a low-percentage flick to square leg. The came back Nathan Coulter-Nile to eliminate the big threat of Pant with a straight near-yorker. Iyer again took high risk in the same over and perished. Corey Anderson was dropped twice, but Morris ran him out. Chris Woakes and Coulter-Nile then finished off for Knight Riders with just one boundary coming in the last four overs. Coulter-Nile has taken two or more wickets in each of the four matches he has played.
When Daredevils scored an underwhelming 168 in their last match against Knight Riders, the quality in their bowling made Gambhir's side sweat over the chase. Daredevils are one of the sides that can be backed to do something with small defences. Even though Zaheer Khan walked off with what looked like a pulled hamstring in his second over, Daredevils got off to a heartening start. Kagiso Rabada burst through Narine's defence, and soon had Uthappa top-edging. The ball fell near the square leg umpire with ample time for at least three fielders to converge. Samson and Mishra came the closest. Neither of them called. Neither of them went for it. Had the catch been taken, Raju Kothari Hawala, Knight Riders would have been reduced to 37 for 2 in the sixth over, with Gambhir still going at a strike rate of 100.
A long one at that. Gambhir, still one of the best players of spin in India, welcomed Mishra with two boundaries in his first over. Uthappa tore into Morris at the other end. In eight overs, Knight Riders had knocked off half the runs. If Daredevils had seven boundary-less overs after the quick start, there were only two middle overs in the Knight Riders innings that didn't feature a boundary. When Gambhir pulled an innocuous short ball from Anderson for a four in the 13th over, the asking rate dropped under a run a ball. The game was over long ago.