It has been nine days since the launch of the 2018 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and the matches keep coming thick and fast.
There has been no shortage of entertainment as the high-octane competition had thrown up a series of nail-biters.
Here, we take a look at the standout performances after 12 matches.
DWAYNE BRAVO v MUMBAI INDIANS
The IPL opened with a bang with Dwayne Bravo providing the fireworks as defending champions Mumbai Indians took on Chennai Super Kings. Chasing 166, the Super Kings looked down and out at 84/6 before a whirlwind of a T20 innings from Bravo.
The West Indies all-rounder launched into the Mumbai bowling attack as he smashed seven sixes and four boundaries in an unbeaten 68 off 30 balls to lead the visitors to an improbable win. His three sixes off Jasprit Bumrah in the penultimate over turned the match on its head.
— Sport360° (@Sport360) April 8, 2018
UMESH YADAV v KINGS XI PUNJAB
Umesh Yadav’s spell of 3-23 in Royal Challengers Bangalore’s victory over Kings XI Punjab is our pick for its sheer brilliance. It was a spell that had it all, be it pace, swing or unerring accuracy and it destroyed the Kings XI top-order in no time.
After KL Rahul had hit Chris Woakes for 16 runs in the first over, Yadav seized the initiative for his side with a double-wicket over which included the scalps of Mayank Agarwal and Aaron Finch in consecutive balls.
His dismissal of Yuvraj Singh was the icing on the cake as the pacer sent the veteran batsman’s middle-stump for a stroll with a sharp and venomous in-swinger.
HARDIK PANDYA v DELHI DAREDEVILS
It is hard to keep Mumbai Indians all-rounder Hardik Pandya out of the spotlight for long, be it with the bat, ball or in the field. The 24-year-old completed a brilliant diving catch in the deep to dismiss the dangerous Glenn Maxwell. With the ball high in the air, Pandya made up plenty of ground before diving full-length to take the catch while being airborne.
The Pandya jodi!https://t.co/AYnXk7wljK
— Faizal Khan (@faizalkhanm9) April 14, 2018
With three wins out of three, it is tough to look beyond the Sunrisers as the best team so far. Despite losing their inspirational leader in David Warner, Kane Williamson has stepped in to fill his boots seamlessly. Their bowling unit of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shakib Al Hasan, Siddharth Kaul, Billy Stanlake and Rashid Khan looks head and shoulders above the rest of the pack and they seem firm favourites for the title already.
— Navneet Mundhra (@navneet_mundhra) April 14, 2018
MAYANK MARKANDE (MUMBAI INDIANS)
He might have been a little expensive against the Delhi Daredevils but take nothing away from Markande who has been a revelation so far. The 20-year-old leg-spinner picked up three wickets against Chennai Super Kings on his IPL debut before nearly leading his side to an improbable win against Sunrisers Hyderabad with a spell of 4-23.
First Kedar Jadhav was ruled out of the tournament due to a hamstring injury, then Suresh Raina picked up a calf injury during the game against Kolkata Knight Riders.
Meanwhile, as South Africa’s Faf du Plessis was gaining full fitness, his countrymen Lungi Ngidi had to fly back home after the demise of his father.
To make it even worse, amidst security concerns CSK have been denied the chance to make Chennai their fortress as their remaining home games have been shifted to Pune; a decision that could hinder their prospect of going all the way mostly because the team has been picked according to the conditions at Chennai.
Speaking on the eve of their game against Kings XI Punjab, coach Stephen Fleming looked at the consequences arising due to the uncontrollables.
“There’s obviously been a lot going on. I guess the positive is we’ve had two wins in two. They haven’t been great performances, but they have been good character, scraping and fighting wins, which sometimes at the start of the tournament is more valuable. Yet, disappointed to be leaving Chennai.”
“We sat in the auction to pick a team that was based on conditions and Chennai and we’re disappointed that we only got one home game. We were pleased to have had that one home game, and had a win, but that was going to be a big part of our strategy this year,” Fleming said as quoted by Cricbuzz.
— Suresh Raina (@ImRaina) April 14, 2018
“But we have to adjust. We got injuries as well, other teams have got injuries but a couple of injuries to key Indian batsmen is again a challenge. But that’s a part of the IPL.
“We just need to keep scraping and if that’s going to be the quality of this side then I’ll be very proud of that. It’s keeping us on our toes, there’s certainly something happening everyday.”
“When asked whether there will be a change of strategies and combinations in the absence of Raina, Fleming said, “We can’t replace him (Raina), he’s one of the best performing players in the IPL and the highest run-scorer in the history (of the league). So we can’t replace him, we just got to find a way to minimise his loss.
“We’ve got good players in our set-up – Dhruv Shorey, Murali Vijay who’s played here last year. So there’s guys here with points to prove, with international experience, and if they get the chance they’ll do their best what Suresh Raina can do.
“(This is) an opportunity for someone else but you’d like to get someone like Suresh Raina back into your side as quick as possible.
“The blessing is we’ve got another four days in between and there might be a chance that he could be fit for the next game but we won’t rush him.”
Kane Williamson has steered Sunrisers Hyderabad to the top of the Indian Premier League table since the New Zealander was elevated to captain in the absence of scandal-tained David Warner.
Williamson, the only foreign captain in this season’s edition of the lucrative franchise, has ensured an unbeaten run for Hyderabad in the first three games of the Twenty20 league.
The Kiwi cuts a much lower profile than Warner but has notched 92 runs in the Sunrisers’ three matches, including a fifty in their win over Kolkata Knight Riders on Saturday.
Hyderabad, who won the tournament in 2016, next face second-placed Kings XI Punjab, who recorded their second win on Sunday buoyed by a quick 63-run blitz by Chris Gayle.
“Obviously nice to win three in a row,” said Williamson after the Sunrisers’ win at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens last week.
“Bowlers have executed their skills really well, but we know every game is tough, so look to continue doing that.”
Williamson was a last-minute replacement for Warner after the high-profile Australian was banned from the IPL over the South Africa ball-tampering scandal.
Australia skipper Steve Smith – another big ticket name for the IPL – was also dropped as captain of the Rajasthan Royals.
The cheating row, so close to the IPL season launch, threatened to sully the billion-dollar franchise.
But the glitzy tournament is already earning its reputation with close finishes and big hits in steady supply just a few weeks into the world’s most popular T20 league.
“All the eight teams are striving for that extra “one-percenters’ that can make the difference between winning and losing,” former South Africa all-rounder Jacques Kallis wrote in The Times of India newspaper.
“On many occasions in the past ten years I have made the point that the difference between the top team and the bottom team in the IPL is smaller than any other cricket league in the world,” said Kallis, who advises the Knight Riders.
Gayle was only selected in the third round of IPL bidding, picked up by Punjab for just $314,000 in the January auctions that saw rookies going for more than $1 million.
But the West Indian did not disappoint, smashing 63 off 33 balls in his opener for the Kings XI.
Gayle hit 7 fours and 4 sixes as Kings XI defeated Chennai Super Kings by four runs and cruised into second place on the IPL ladder.
“It’s good to be back,” the 38-year-old big hitter said after Punjab’s win.
Other standout performances include a 14-ball fifty – the fastest in IPL history – by Punjab opener Lokesh Rahul and some entertaining knocks by Knight Riders batsman Andre Russell and England’s Jason Roy for Delhi Daredevils.