Shoaib Akhtar played only three matches in the inaugural season of the Indian Premier League but ended up leaving a lasting impression on the tournament, largely thanks to his four-wicket haul on debut that helped Kolkata Knight Riders hammer Delhi Daredevils.
KKR captain Sourav Ganguly had chosen to bat first at the Eden Gardens in what was an indifferent first season for the team in the league which they would go on to win twice in latter years. The decision however looked like a mistake for most of KKR’s innings as they struggled to get going. Opener and former Pakistan captain Salman Butt was the top scorer with 44 while David Hussey’s 31 at the back end of the innings helped the hosts post 133/6.
DD’s batting line-up at the time featured the likes of Gautam Gambhir, captain Virender Sehwag, AB de Villiers, Shikhar Dhawan and Tillakaratne Dilshan and hence they were expected to chase down the total with ease.
However, Ganguly gave Akhtar the ball early on and the Rawalpindi Express repaid his captain’s faith. He got Sehwag out off the second ball of the innings and by the time it was the fifth over of the DD innings, Shoab had dismissed Gambhir and De Villiers as well. He then trapped Manoj Tiwary LBW right after he had dismissed De Villiers but could not complete his hat-trick.
However, the damage was done and while Dilshan led a brief fightback, DD never recovered from Akhtar’s destructive initial spell. They were eventually all out for 110 and KKR won the match by 23 runs.
Akhtar played two more matches for KKR and finished the season with five wickets. KKR themselves missed out on a playoff spot, finishing sixth with six wins and seven losses. Ganguly was their highest run-scorer with 349 runs while Shoaib’s Pakistan teammate Umar Gul was their highest wicket-taker with 12 scalps.