Maharashtra and Mumbai start with wins
Defending champions Maharashtra opened their campaign with a 22-run victory over Gujarat at the Moti Bagh Stadium in Vadodara. Opener Harshad Khadiwale hammered his highest Twenty20 score of 88 to power Maharashtra to 147, though the rest of the top five fell in single digits. He was supported by 22-year-old Ganesh Gaikwad, who made a patient 34 and was involved in a 81-run stand with Khadiwale.
The Gujarat chase was never on track with their most dangerous batsman, former India wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel, making a 11-ball 4 before falling to quick bowler Samad Fallah, who finished with superb figures of 4-1-11-2. The run-rate rarely crossed six, and the loss of three wickets for 10 runs pushed them to 60 for 4. Then, their chances were revived by a 40-run stand between Bhavik Thaker and Jay Desai, leaving them needing 48 off 27 deliveries. Gujarat lost two wickets for three runs in six deliveries and with that their chances evaporated.
Heavyweights Mumbai began with a thrilling final-ball victory over Baroda at the Moti Bagh Stadium in Vadodara. Wasim Jaffer, the Mumbai captain, guided them to the win with an unbeaten 55. Wicketkeeper Aditya Tare kept him company in the tense final overs.
Baroda's batting depends on two IPL stars, Mumbai Indians' Ambati Rayudu and Rajasthan Royals' Yusuf Pathan, and they had contrasting matches. Rayudu, in his first game for Baroda, top scored with a run-a-ball 45, while the big-hitting Yusuf had an uncharacteristic nine-ball 2. Rayudu was supported by Shatrunjay Gaekwad, the pair adding 36 for the fourth wicket, but this was a low-scoring encounter with Baroda finishing on 122.
Mumbai, bereft of many of their top players, seemed on course for a straightforward win when Jaffer guided them to 103 for 2 in the 17th over. Left-arm spinner Swapnil Singh then struck twice in four deliveries to make it a close match. Tare hit three fours in the final three overs, and a boundary off the last delivery sealed Mumbai's win.
At the Sunshine Ground in Cuttack Tripura, the whipping boys of East Zone last year, pushed Orissa hard but lost to a final-ball six from Deepak Behera, who had previously scored only two runs in cricket at the senior level. He came in to bat on the last ball of the match, with Orissa needing two more to win and smashed a six off former Mumbai bowler Wilkin Mota to seal the victory.
Orissa were cruising towards victory after opener Natraj Behera's career-best 73 had guided them to 101 for 1 in the 15th over, chasing 140. Tripura fought back strongly, but with Natraj Behera still at the crease, Orissa were favourites with 20 needed off the final three overs and eight wickets remaining. He fell lbw to Rana Dutta in the 18th and with four more wickets going down and no boundaries Orissa needed Deepak Behera's heroics to secure victory.
Earlier, Tripura had a collapse of their own: Mota (43) and former Maharashtra wicketkeeper Yogesh Takawale (59) had taken Tripura to 90 for 1 in the 13th over, before they lost three wicket for nine runs and later three more for seven to slide to 129 for 7. Left-arm medium-pacer Preetamjit Das was the most successful Orissa bowler, taking four for 31.
Debutant quick bowler Shami Ahmed's 4 for 24 helped Bengal crush Assam by eight wickets at Ravenshaw College Ground in Cuttack. Assam are bolstered by out-of-state veterans such as Mumbai's Amol Muzumdar, Tamil Nadu's S Sriram and Maharasthra's Dheeraj Jadhav, but all of them flopped and despite 26-year-old Deepak Sharma's 40, Assam folded for a paltry 99.
Bengal had few problems knocking off the runs needed, with 29-year-old opener Arindam Das, playing his first Twenty20 match, shepherding them to victory through his unbeaten 41. He had help from Sreevats Goswami, the former India Under-19 wicketkeeper playing as a specialist batsman, who made a patient 25. Bengal cruised to victory with 19 deliveries to spare.
An unbeaten 99 from opener Mukul Dagar and a collective effort from the Haryana bowlers helped their team upstage neighbours Punjab by 19 runs at the Model Sports Complex in Delhi. Dagar's knock stood out in his team's innings as it overcame periods of worry for the team and eventually propelled them to a formidable 174. His innings was laced with 15 fours and six sixes and after Haryana had been reduced to 81 for 4, Pardeep Sahu supported him in an unbeaten 93-run stand which gave his team's bowlers plenty to work with. They responded in style: left-arm seamer Sanjay Budhwar leading the way with three wickets and the others bagging at least a wicket each, to restrict Punjab to 155 for 9. Bipul Sharma fought hard down the order with 79, but in vain.
Services prevailed in a low-scoring encounter against Jammu and Kashmir at the Model Sports Complex in Delhi. The J&K bowlers, led by the pace duo of Samiullah Beigh and captain Abid Nabi who grabbed two wickets each, restricted Services to 112 for 8. The first four wickets fell for 38 before Sanjeev Mishra (21), Narendra Singh (19) and Irfan Khan (15) combined to help take the score into three-figures. But the J&K batsmen couldn't measure up to the Services bowling in the chase. Wickets fell too frequently to prevent any threatening partnership from taking root - the highest score was 19 and the best partnership just 27. Medium-pacers Amrinder Singh and Sumit Singh were the pick of the bowlers with two wickets each, as J&K folded for 94.
Delhi beat Himachal Pradesh comfortably by 34 runs at the Model Sports Complex. There was no stand-out performer with the bat for the hosts whose innings centered around cameos from four of their batsmen who scored between 20 and 30, with Sumit Narwal's unbeaten 27 off 13 balls, including two sixes and two fours, providing them some impetus. Delhi posted 140, with Puneet Mehra top scoring with 29, and their bowlers responded well. HP had begun well in their reply, with the openers adding 30 but things soon fell apart. Narwal, in an impressive all-round performance, picked up two wickets while Rajat Bhatia, with his medium-pace, rocked the middle order with three wickets. Abhinav Bali and opener Sangram Singh made 23 each, but their team could only muster 106 in its response.
Madhya Pradesh pulled off a big chase against Uttar Pradesh at Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur. UP piled on 186 after being sent in to bat, and would have expected to defend that total, especially with an attack featuring three bowlers who have featured for India recently, but Harpreet Singh, batting for the first time in a senior level Twenty20, and Murtaza Ali put on 112 in 64 deliveries to take MP to victory.
UP's big total was posted due to career-best efforts from former India Under-19 opener, Tanmay Srivastava (84*), and their captain, Mohammad Kaif (68), who added 146 for the second wicket. UP would have been even more confident of their chances after removing MP's openers and their most threatening batsmen - Monish Mishra and Naman Ojha - cheaply. Quick bowler Sudeep Tyagi took three early wickets before Harpreet and Murtaza transformed the game.
Rajasthan's openers Aakash Chopra and Dishant Yagnik set up a successful chase of 178 against Railways at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur. The pair added 128, Chopra anchoring the innings with an unbeaten 72 in 58 and Yagnik racing to 70 in 44 with nine fours and three sixes. Captain Vineet Saxena supported Chopra in an unfinished 28-run stand with a quick 16 that sealed the win with three balls to spare. Railways had put on a strong show with the bat, thanks to significant contributions from their middle order. Sanjay Bangar top scored with 41 and was assisted in a 53-run stand by TP Singh. Wicketkeeper Dhiran Salvi stepped up in the late overs with a quickfire 24 and so did Karan Sharma, who smacked three sixes and a four in his 12-ball 31. A score of 177 appeared challenging, but wasn't enough against Rajasthan's response.