On Wednesday, Kolkata Knight Riders coach Trevor Bayliss used the word 'rock' to describe Jacques Kallis. "Jacques is a great player and you write players like them off at your own risk. When people think they are down and out, that's when such players rise up to the occasion. He is still as strong as ever with the bat and ball, and I'd be surprised if he doesn't do well in this tournament." On Thursday, Bayliss's chest must have swelled with pride. Why, he would have even identified with Michel de Nostredame, the 16th century French seer better known as Nostradamus. And why not.
Kallis repaid the faith by producing an absolute gem of an innings to guide the 2012 champions to 163/5 in the opening match of IPL-7. The South African's 46-ball 72 (5x4, 3x6) and his 131-run second-wicket stand with Manish Pandey (64, 53 balls, 6x4, 2x6) was sufficient to put holders Mumbai Indians out of their comfort zone.
It was bang-bang cricket all the way. Anything but. In fact, Kolkata managed just 31 in the first six overs, after losing skipper Gautam Gambhir early. They reached 63 at the end of the 10th. Kallis was his typical self for the better part of the innings, but soon after Malinga dropped a sitter in the 14th over, the South African changed gears. Kallis was on 34 then.
Pragyan Ojha was the victim of that barrage. A four through extra cover, a six over long-on and swipe over the mid-wicket boundary got him going. It also got him his half century. That over, the 15th, was also the start of a brilliant phase for Kolkata who plundered 73 off the last six overs and no less than 14 in the final one bowled by Corey Anderson.
Pandey, too, played some effective shots to keep the Mumbai attack at bay. While Kallis was looking to steady the ship after Gambhir's departure, Pandey launched into Anderson, hitting the New Zealand all-rounder for a six and a four. The tournament's first six went straight over the bowler's head as Pandey punished the over-pitched delivery with ease.
Mumbai's spinners came a cropper, but their main man, Malinga (4/23), had a great day. If only the others had stepped up.