Bhanuka Rajapaksa slammed a quickfire 50 to guide Punjab Kings to a challenging 191 for five against Kolkata Knight Riders in their IPL season-opener in Mohali on Saturday.
Rajapaksa added 86 runs for the second wicket with captain Shikhar Dhawan (40) to lay a strong platform, with Sam Curran (26 not out) providing a late flurry on a batting-friendly wicket at the PCA stadium.
Punjab dominated the first half of the innings with aggressive batting and looked primed to cross 200, but Kolkata Knight Riders managed to pull things back in control with regular wickets after a sturdy 86-run association between Rajapaksa and Dhawan.
The left-handed Sri Lankan Rajapaksa made the most of the wrong lines bowled to him by KKR bowlers, racing to the first half-century for PBKS in the 16th edition of IPL.
Riding on the momentum provided by Prabhsimran Singh (23) at the top, Rajapaksa ensured Punjab maintained the domination while Dhawan played the second fiddle throughout his stay.
They went about their job with precision to score nearly 10 runs an over, adding 86 runs from just 55 balls for the second wicket.
The Sri Lankan batter toyed with the KKR bowling, finding gaps and clearing the ropes at will and perished only after scoring 50 from 32 balls with five fours and two sixes.
Punjab wicketkeeper-batter Jitesh Sharma did well to make an 11-ball 21, hitting a couple of sixes and a four while adding 26 runs for the third wicket with Dhawan. But his charge was cut short by Tim Southee, who got the right-handed batter caught at short third-man by Umesh Yadav.
Sharma’s dismissal brought Sikandar Raza at the crease and the Zimbabwean player began his IPL career with a first-ball four. Raza made 16 from 13 balls with a six and a four each.
However, KKR continued to fight back with Varun Chakravarthy surprising Dhawan in the 15th over with a quicker ball, ending his vigil at 29-ball 40 with six fours.
Earlier at the start, Prabhsimran provided fireworks with a brisk 12-ball 23 with two sixes and as many fours, but was strangled down the leg side by Southee and caught behind in the second over.
At the end of the powerplay, Punjab had raced to 56 for one to cap off a brisk start.
For KKR, Chakravarthy (4-0-26-1) and Yadav (4-0-27-1) were the picks among the bowlers but the overseas pair of Southee (4-0–54-2) and Narine (4-0-40-1) and India’s Shardul Thakur (4-0-43-0) were expensive.