Ahmedabad Rockets 158 for 5 (Hinds 59, Dholpure 54, Mongia 2-18) beat Chandigarh Lions 139 for 6 (Elliott 39, Streak 2-25) by 19 runs
Fifties from openers Wavell Hinds and Sachin Dholpure and a disciplined bowling performance, led by fresh foreign signings Jason Gillespie and Heath Streak, helped the Ahmedabad Rockets, one of two new teams, prevail over Chandigarh Lions in the opening match of the ICL's third and latest edition.
The form book favoured the Lions going into the encounter - they were finalists in the ICL's Twenty20 tournament last year and were playing at home.
However, that notion was quickly turned on its head once Damien Martyn, the Rockets' captain, called correctly at the toss and chose to bat. Hinds and Dholpure came out all guns blazing and the game quickly seemed to go out of the Lions' control - 76 came off the first eight overs, and a big score was on the cards with the Rockets on 122 at the 14-over mark, all ten wickets in hand.
Daryl Tuffey was the first bowler to suffer - his second over went for 13 - but perhaps the decision that cost Lions the game was Chris Cairns' bold move to bring on spin in the form of Rajesh Sharma and Karanveer Singh after Tuffey and Andrew Hall finished their opening spells. The move brought plenty of hits for those watching to cheer, and with 49 runs in four overs, the Rockets had seized the momentum.
However, the left-arm spin of Dinesh Mongia helped rein in the rampage. His first three overs went for just 15, and his fourth - the 15th in the innings - saw him dismiss Dholpure, who scored 54 off 43, followed by Martyn for 2, while Hinds was run out for 59, also off 43 deliveries.
Four tight overs followed from the seamers, in which only 18 runs were given, and despite three fours from Heath Streak in the final over of the innings bowled by Hall, the Rockets seemed to be short of a winning total.
After the break, during which Bollywood actress Neha Dhupia entertained the crowd, the Lions' new signings Lou Vincent and Matthew Elliott began the chase and though Vincent fell cheaply, his partner and No. 3 Tejinder Pal Singh kept the score ticking. While the wickets were intact, however, the asking-rate climbed and at the half-way mark, the Lions were at 68 for 1, needing another 91.
Streak removed Tejinder in the 11th over, and left-armer Sridharan Sriram struck first-ball to get rid of Elliott in the next. Dinesh Mongia and Chris Cairns then kept the Lions in the hunt, but with 50 required off five, Martyn rightly gambled to bring on Gillespie for a breakthrough instead of saving his final over till later. Gillespie gave away three runs off the first four balls, and a slower delivery saw Cairns spoon the fifth to extra cover.
Mongia fell to Streak in the next over, and the Lions' hopes seem all but finished, with 46 required off 22. When Streak bowled the 20th, the win was all but secure, with 33 needed. Sarabjit Singh, with nothing to lose, hit a four and six, and then tried the Misbah scoop, but the Rockets walked away with the win and Rs 25 lakh (approx US$62,500) cheque, with Hinds named Man of the Match.