Opening weekend recap: Pant and Russell sizzle, Bangalore fizzle

The first two days of the 2019 season of the Indian T20 League has seen three matches offer differing flavours of high-intensity cricket, each showcasing the strengths and depth that several franchises possess.

Here’s a recap of this weekend’s matches:

Pant goes ballistic

At the Wankhede on Sunday night, Delhi‘s innings was in need of a punch after Shikhar Dhawan (43 off 36 balls) was dismissed off the first ball of the 15th over. At that stage, the score was 131/4. In the next 29 deliveries, Delhi made 82 runs.

Most of those came from Rishabh Pant, who swatted seven sixes and seven fours in his 27-ball innings of 78 not out. Of those 78 runs, Pant scored 63 on the legside in a display of nonchalant hitting. He repeatedly shuffled across the stumps to dump the ball over fine leg or wide of backward square leg, and there was one stunning whip shot for six off Jasprit Bumrah. It was raucous and set up a big win over Mumbai.

Warner’s back

Exactly a year to the day he was found guilty for his role in the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa, David Warner made a stunning return to the IPL.

In his first professional match since undergoing elbow surgery – and five ahead of his international ban ending – Warner opened the innings for Hyderabad in Kolkata and didn’t look like he had been away. His 85 from 53 balls contained nine fours and three sixes and dominated an opening stand of 118 with Englishman Jonny Bairstow, who made 39 off 35.

Dropped early in the game, the Australian sped to his fifty in 31 balls and was the second Hyderabad wicket to fall. The visitors ended on 181/3 in 20 overs, a total which did not prove enough thanks to an outrageous hand from a star Kolkata player.

David Warner made an immediate impact on IPL comeback. © BCCI

Russell punches his way out of a jam

That man is Andre Russell. The West Indian allrounder has had his problems with fitness and a dodgy knee, and during the recent PSL was well down on speed while bowling. Having taken two of the three Hyderabad wickets to fall at Eden Gardens, Russell walked out to bat after his skipper Dinesh Karthik fell in the 13th over. Kolkata were 95/3 chasing 182. After a 13-minute floodlight failure, Russell provided the fireworks in an outrageous innings of 49* off 19 balls, with four fours and four sixes.

In the IPL’s 11-year history, no team had ever chased more than 52 runs in the last three overs of a game. Kolkata needed 53 off 18 balls, and Russell was nine off seven. He hit 18 in five balls during Siddarth Kaul’s 18th over, then moved to 48 off 18 at the end of the 19th bowled by Bhuvneshwar Kumar. That meant that Kolkata scored 40 runs in 12 balls. Needing 13 off the last over, the hosts won with two balls to spare.

Dhoni trumps Kohli on raging turner

The surface for the league’s opening match was not a good advertisement for 20-over cricket, which MS Dhoni acknowledged after Chennai‘s eight-wicket win.

Dhoni read the conditions at the MA Chidambaram Stadium far better than his Bangalore counterpart Virat Kohli did, packed his XI with four spinners and opted to field. He then turned to spin for the second over by tossing the ball to Harbhajan Singh, and that triggered a collapse that saw Bangalore bowled out for 70 in 17.1 overs.

Kohli, meanwhile, included just one specialist spinner in Yuzvendra Chahal. Moeen Ali batted at No 3 for Bangalore but his offspin proved far more effective, as he bowled his four overs for just 19 runs.

Harbhajan claimed 3/20 in his four overs, South Africa’s legspinner Imran Tahir grabbed 3/9 in his four and Ravindra Jadeja took 2/15 in four.

Harbhajan Singh's three wickets had Bangalore in all sorts of trouble
Harbhajan Singh’s three wickets had Bangalore in all sorts of trouble. © BCCI

Bumrah injury has India worrying

It seemed, at least on social media, that the country’s cricket-watching public had widespread crease lines across their foreheads on Sunday evening when Bumrah clutched his left shoulder after falling to the ground in his follow-through. While trying to stop the ball after Pant dug out a yorker, Bumrah stumbled and fell flat. Immediately, he grimaced.

Bumrah is, of course, not just Mumbai’s spearhead but the top-ranked bowler in ODIs and the Indian cricket team’s most vital cog. With the World Cup a little more than two months away, many will hope that Bumrah’s injury is not grave.

The official statement from the Mumbai camp after the loss to Delhi was that Bumrah is recovering well and that the franchise’s medical team will assess him Monday.