Dhoni half century in vain as Kolkata Knight Riders beat Chennai Super Kings in IPL opener

Former captain's unbeaten 38-ball 50 not enough to prevent six-wicket defeat at Wankhede Stadium

MS Dhoni bats during the Chennai Super Kings' IPL natch against Kolkata Knight Riders at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. Photo: Sportzpics
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Kolkata Knight Riders opened the new Indian Premier League (IPL) season with a six-wicket victory over Chennai Super Kings on Saturday, despite an unbeaten 38-ball 50 from Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

The 40-year-old Dhoni, who passed on the captaincy to Ravindra Jadeja on Thursday, lifted holders Chennai from a precarious 61-5 to post 131-5 after being put into bat in Mumbai.

Kolkata reached their target in 18.3 overs with new captain Shreyas Iyer unbeaten on 20. Ajinkya Rahane top-scored with 44.

"There's always tension when MS Dhoni is batting, especially in the last three overs when the dew is coming," said Iyer, who succeeded England's Eoin Morgan as the team's captain. "We just have to carry the momentum from here."

Chennai fast bowler Dwayne Bravo claimed three wickets to equal veteran Sri Lankan Lasith Malinga as the leading wicket-taker in the tournament with 170.

Dhoni, a veteran wicketkeeper-batter, took his time to get going but put on an unbeaten stand of 70 with the left-handed Jadeja, who made 26, and the pair combined for 47 off the last three overs.

Dhoni, who led Chennai to their fourth IPL title in the Covid-hit tournament completed in the UAE last year, smashed seven fours and one six to bring alive the limited crowd at the Wankhede Stadium.

It was Dhoni's first half-century since April 2019 when he smashed 84, although in a losing cause against Royal Challengers Bangalore.

"Certainly MS getting runs in the tournament is a positive, but it was a pretty rusty performance (by the team)," Chennai coach Stephen Fleming told reporters.

Fleming revealed he had discussed the captaincy change with Dhoni last season and admitted the team will go through a "transition period".

The tournament has been expanded to 10 teams and 74 matches but league games would be restricted to four venues in Mumbai and Pune.

Delhi Capitals take on five-time winners Mumbai Indians in the first match on Sunday while Punjab Kings meet Bangalore in the evening game.

Updated: March 27, 2022, 8:55 AM