Bengaluru: Robin Uthappa returned to the Karnataka Premier League (KPL) in great style. The Bengaluru Blasters skipper served up a blistering 38-ball 81 (8x4, 6x6) to power his side to a commanding 228 for five in the tournament opener against defending champions Belagavi Panthers at the M Chinnasawamy Stadium here on Wednesday night (August 15).

Also read: Full schedule of KPL 2018

Requiring to score at 11.45 for an improbable win, the Panthers never really got going and ended with 161 for 8 in their 20 overs.  The loss of batting mainstay Stalin Hoover to a first-ball duck hit them particularly hard.

Earlier, Belagavi skipper Stuart Binny had chosen to bowl first mostly because of the inclement weather, what with the rains coming down heavily for a good part of the evening.

However the start to the inaugural game was delayed by a mere 15 minutes, thanks to the state-of-the-art Sub-Air system at the venue which ensured that no water remained on the surface. It also meant that the near 11,000 crowd that had gathered got their money’s worth.

With Uthappa around the entertainment was never in doubt but the foundation was laid by opener M Vishwanathan with his 26-ball 46 (6x4, 2x6). He and Uthappa, who came in at number 3, raised 75 for the second wicket in just 42 deliveries. No bowler was spared by the duo, Uthappa initially being severe on the spinners Shubang Hegde and Dikshanshu Negi.

Once Vishwanathan fell, trapped leg before to the first ball bowled by Negi, Pawan Deshpande (46, 30b, 2x4, 2x6) stepped up to support Uthappa. The third wicket duo put on 65 from 31 balls to ensure that the Blasters would comfortably go past the 160-170 total that Uthappa wanted at the toss.

The Belagavi bowler to suffer most was medium pacer D Avinash, the toast of last season. Avinash was taken for 41 in his 3 overs but when a batsman like Uthappa is on the rampage, there is little one can do.

Given the cushion of a large total the Blasters bowlers started on the right foot reducing the Panthers to 73 for 4 around the half-way mark. HS Sharath, known more for his bowling, brought off some big hits during his 25-ball 49 (2x4, 5x6) but the Blasters bowlers were in control otherwise. Left-arm spinner Anand Doddamani, who had Sharath stumped, was the pick of the bowlers, ending with 2 for 27 from his four overs.

Brief scores: Bengaluru Blasters: 228/5 in 20 overs (M Vishwanathan 46, Robin Uthapoa 81, Pawan Deshpande 46; Stuart Biiny 3-37) bt Belagavi Panthers: 161/8 in 20 overs (HS Sharath 49; Anand Doddamani 2-27, Manoj Bhandage 3-27) by 67 runs.

Thursday’s match (August 16)

Hubbali Tigers vs Bijapur Bulls – 6.40 PM, M Chinnaswamy Stadium

Live on Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD and Hotstar