Defending champions Chennai Super Kings made a rollicking start to their 2019 Indian Premier League (IPL) campaign with a seven-wicket thrashing of Royal Challengers Bangalore in the tournament opener.
Veterans Imran Tahir and Harbhajan Singh played starring roles with the ball as three-time champions Chennai bowled out Bangalore for just 70 runs before they chased down the target with 14 balls to spare.
Chasing a paltry 71 for victory, Chennai were made to toil initially by the visitors with the powerplay overs fetching just 16 runs at the expense of Shane Watson’s wicket.
However, Raina was on hand to release the pressure with the left-hander becoming the first batsman to register 5,000 IPL runs in the process. Raina and Ambati Rayudu both fell after promising starts but it wasn’t enough for the visitors as the hosts coasted to a comfortable win in front of their home fans.
Earlier, Chennai’s spinners ran riot at the Chepauk stadium with as many as eight Bangalore wickets falling to them. Virat Kohli’s star-studded batting line up failed to withstand their first test as they slumped to the sixth lowest total in IPL history.
Royal Challengers were bowled out in just over 17 overs after being made to bat first by MS Dhoni with only wicketkeeper-batsman Parthiv Patel showing any signs of resistance.
On a slow Chennai surface where the ball gripped and turned substantially, Bangalore were on the back foot from the very go. After a quite start by openers Parthiv and Kohli, it all came crashing down for the Challengers with veteran off-spinner Harbhajan Singh turning the clock back in a sensational display.
Making full use of the sluggish nature of the pitch, Harbhajan sent back Kohli, Moeen Ali and danger man AB de Villiers in quick succession with a terrific spell of off-spin. Shimron Hetmyer’s IPL debut did not go according to plan either with the Windies dasher run-out for a duck by Suresh Raina.
Once Harbhajan was done, Ravindra Jadeja and Imran Tahir took over for Chennai with the duo sharing five wickets between themselves to put Bangalore on the brink.
Bangalore’s struggles were exemplified by the fact that no batsman other than Parthiv managed to get into double figures. Parthiv was set to become the first batsman in IPL history to carry his bat but it wasn’t to be for the left-hander who ultimately became the final Bangalore wicket to fall.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: 70 all out
Parthiv Patel: 29 (35)
Harbhajan Singh: 3-20
Imran Tahir: 3-9
Chennai Super Kings: 71-3
Ambati Rayudu: 28 (42)
Two-time champions Kolkata will want to exact revenge for the loss in the second Qualifier to Hyderabad in 2018 and they have a fairly settled core squad capable of doing so.
Led by Dinesh Karthik, the Knight Riders will once again bank on some Caribbean magic in IPL 2019 with the presence of their two West Indies all-rounders Sunil Narine and Andre Russell.
Both the Kolkata stalwarts were injury doubts coming into the IPL but have shown no signs of trouble in training so far. Narine is the most economical bowler in IPL history with the mystery spinner picking up his 98 wickets while only conceding 6.54 runs an over.
To go with his outstanding bowling abilities, Narine has also added some big shots to his repertoire and emerged as a lethal pinch-hitter at the top of the innings.
Russell, meanwhile, has time and time again turned match-winner for Kolkata with both bat and ball. The Windies all-rounder’s IPL strike-rate is hovering over 177 after 50 matches while he has also smashed a total of 68 sixes.
While Chris Lynn and Narine will be expected to provide fireworks at the top of the batting order, young Shubman Gill will be the man to watch for Kolkata with the youngster poised to have a big season ahead of him.
Eden Gardens has traditionally favoured spinners in the IPL over the years and Kolkata have an impressive spin arsenal at their disposal containing the likes of Narine, Kuldeep Yadav and Piyush Chawla.
While Kolkata’s spin contingent is strong, Sunrisers are fairly lethal in that department as well with Afghanistan sensation Rashid Khan leading the line. The leg-spinner has already picked up 38 wickets in his two seasons in the IPL which have come at an economy-rate of just 6.68 runs an over.
Rashid is likely to be complimented in the spin department by his Afghanistan compatriot Mohammad Nabi who had some excellent displays against Ireland recently.
However, all eyes will be on David Warner on Sunday with the Australian batsman set to make his IPL return after a one-year absence. With the ball-tampering saga now behind him, Warner will be hoping to let his bat do all the talking in the 2019 edition.
IPL’s all-time leading overseas run-scorer Warner will need to come to the party on Sunday given that Kane Williamson is set to miss the tie due to a shoulder injury.
The Kiwi stalwart has been retained as the team’s skipper for the 2019 campaign despite Warner’s return to the squad and his absence will be felt at the Eden Gardens given his impressive 2018 showings where he aggregated 735 runs at an average greater than 52.
With Williamson likely to be out of Sunday’s clash, vice-captain Bhuvneshwar Kumar is expected to don the skipper’s cap and the India man will be crucial for the Sunrisers with his new-ball abilities.
One player to watch out for Sunrisers will be Jonny Bairstow with the explosive England opener set to make his IPL debut.
While Williamson is a major doubt for the clash, Sunrisers will also have to make do without the services of star all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan who is still recovering from a finger injury.
For Kolkata, South Africa pacer Anrich Nortje has already been ruled out of the IPL due to a shoulder injury.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine, Shubman Gill, Robin Uthappa, Nitsh Rana, Dinesh Karthik (c and wk), Andre Russell, Kuldeep Yadav, Piyush Chawla, Sandeep Warrior, Harry Gurney.
Sunrisers Hyderabad: David Warner, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Manish Pandey, Vijay Shankar, Yusuf Pathan, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar (c), Sandeep Sharma, Siddarth Kaul, Khaleel Ahmed.
Three-time champions Mumbai will be hoping to make amends for their 2018 showings where they failed to make it to the play-offs for only the third time in their history.
However, while Rohit Sharma and his men have been handed a favourable home clash to start their 2019 campaign, they head into the match with some big absentees in the pace department.
Veteran pacer and all-time IPL leading wicket-taker Lasith Malinga has pulled out of his side’s first six fixtures in order to participate in Sri Lanka’s Super Provincial One-Day tournament. Also, Kiwi pacer Adam Milne has pulled out of the IPL at the last-minute owing to a heel problem.
.@MahelaJay: When we got Malinga in the auction, Sri Lanka Cricket gave us his availability schedule. The (domestic) tournament wasn't a part of that.— Mumbai Indians (@mipaltan) March 23, 2019
There's a conversation to be made. Once we get through that conversation, we'll know frankly what's happening.#CricketMeriJaan
With Australia pacer Jason Behrendorff also currently away on international duty, Mumbai will bank on stalwart Jasprit Bumrah and Mitchell McClenaghan to spearhead the fast-bowling department.
The batting unit for Mumbai looks fairly strong with the presence of Rohit, Evin Lewis, Kieron Pollard, Quinton de Kock and Suryakumar Yadav while the Pandya brothers – Hardik and Krunal – provide depth in the all-rounder’s department.
Mumbai also have the services of veteran batsman Yuvraj Singh at their disposal but it remains to be seen how prominently the left-hander features given his dismal 2018 displays.
Delhi, meanwhile, come into the 2019 edition with a new name and a fairly young squad at their disposal. Led by young Shreyas Iyer, Delhi Capitals are yet to reach an IPL final and will be desperate to improve on their bottom-place finish in 2018.
Delhi already had a strong core of young Indian batsmen with the presence of Iyer, Prithvi Shaw and Rishabh Pant and that has now been bolstered with some experience with Shikhar Dhawan making a return to his home franchise.
With Dhawan and explosive New Zealand opener Colin Munro at the top and a young and energetic Indian middle-order, Delhi are looking good in the batting department. That South Africa batsman Colin Ingram arrives in the tournament on the back of some impressive showings in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) also augurs well for the Capitals.
In the pace department, South Africa’s Kagiso Rabada will be key for Delhi along with New Zealand’s Trent Boult. Delhi also have in their ranks Ishant Sharma who returns to the IPL after a one-year absence and it will be interesting to see how the India pacer performs in the shortest format of the game.
It is the spin department where Delhi are looking particularly threatening with the presence of IPL’s second highest leading wicket-taker Amit Mishra, Sandeep Lamichhane and Axar Patel. While Mishra will bring all his years of experience, Nepal sensation Lamichhane is expected to play a much greater role for the franchise this time around after featuring in only three matches last year.
Delhi’s past record at the Wankhede does not inspire too much confidence with six defeats in their eight matches at the venue. However, a young squad brimming with potential coupled with some experienced campaigners could see them surprise quite a few teams in the 2019 edition.
Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (c), Evin Lewis, Quinton de Kock, Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan (wk), Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Mitchell McClenaghan, Mayank Markande, Jasprit Bumrah.
Delhi Capitals: Colin Munro, Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, Shreyas Iyer (c), Rishabh Pant (wk), Hanuma Vihari, Aksar Patel, Sandeep Lamichhane, Amit Mishra, Trent Boult, Kagiso Rabada