England's IPL cricketers have swapped a summer of bio-secure bubbles at the Ageas Bowl and Old Trafford for the sunnier climes of the UAE, and after an opportunity for competitive action denied to many of their colleagues and rivals at the tournament, they have for the most part hit the ground running in this year's event. Here's a quick run-down of who's done what in the first week.
Jofra Archer, finisher extraordinaire
How much simpler might England's run-chase in the World Cup final have been had Jofra Archer found the six-hitting form that he's located in Sharjah this past week? Archer, remember, had a shot to nothing at Lord's last summer, one ball to face at the end of the penultimate over against New Zealand, with 15 still needed and Ben Stokes at the other end. He duly had his stumps splintered by Jimmy Neesham. But in the ludicrously bat-dominant conditions in Sharjah, he's found his range - a total of 40 match-turning runs from 11 balls, with his six sixes including four in the space of two legal deliveries from Lungi Ngidi, which has to be some sort of a record. In the day job, Archer's continued the smooth form he showed against Australia earlier this month - his stand-out figures of 1 for 26 were crucial against CSK, and while he received a bit of treatment from Nicholas Pooran at the death against KXIP, he's hardly been alone in that, as Ngidi and Sheldon Cottrell, among many others, can testify.
Well this aged well https://t.co/EURMFteRk3— Jofra Archer (@JofraArcher) September 27, 2020
Sharjah's challenge gives Tom Curran early food for thought
Who'd be a bowler at Sharjah, least of all a bowler whose methods revolve around subtlety and variation - factors that count for little when the conditions are so sweaty that your fingers lose their grip, and when the boundaries are short enough to reach with any old mishit. It has been a challenging week for Curran with the ball, who's gone for 98 runs in eight overs, with barely a yorker in sight - his logic being that an accidental full toss, and the resulting free hit, would be more damaging than a standard smack through a length ball. But he's shown his ticker in the tough circumstances nonetheless, not least with the bat, where he coolly cracked the winning runs from his solitary ball in Sunday night's thriller. Oh, and he also got one-up on his brother in their personal match-up against CSK.
Sam Curran shines for an otherwise flat CSK
Sam Curran Makes Things Happen. England have known this for months, and CSK are finding it out too, with their baby-faced acquisition living up to his £590,000 price tag in three sparky displays with bat and ball. Five wickets at an economy rate of 7.33 is outstanding by any standards, especially given that he's one of the few to emerge intact from the carnage at Sharjah, his skiddy left-armers returning 3 for 33 in defeat against Rajasthan. He deserved better against Delhi too, an outstanding death over yielding four runs and a wicket before CSK's batting fell away again. But even on that front, he's bucked the trend with some ebullient smiting. With 36 runs from 14 balls in three innings, he's been willing to die without wondering, unlike some of his more senior colleagues.
England's senior statesman quietly makes his mark
For a man who's been an irregular presence at the IPL for more than a decade now, Eoin Morgan hasn't had an awful lot to write home about in his previous six seasons - a highest score of 66 and a career strike-rate of 120, which is almost 20 points lower than his England mark. But Morgan's fabled unflappability has an added value now that he is a World Cup-winning captain, and he proved the perfect sidekick for Shubman Gill with 42 not out from 29 in KKR's first win of the campaign, an unbroken 92-run stand sealing their chase against Sunrisers after three early wickets.
Death-over woes leave Jordan in limbo
Chris Jordan played just one match in each of the 2017 and 2018 IPLs before going unselected in 2019, and well … who knows quite when he'll get another opportunity in 2020 after a debut to forget for KXIP. His death-bowling wiles have been a hit for England in recent years, but his franchise form has been less spectacular, and Marcus Stoinis took him to the cleaners in Dubai, bludgeoning a record-equalling 30 runs from his final over. Even then, Jordan had a shot at redemption, as he took strike for the final ball of the match with the scores tied … and shovelled a full-toss to square leg.
Jonny Bairstow was reckless against Yuzvendra Chahal - Tom Moody
Moody, Agarkar and Dasgupta look back at the factors that helped RCB trump SRH
Why did Jonny do that?
It was all going so well in Jonny Bairstow's opening match of the campaign. Sunrisers were cruising on 121 for 2 with 43 still needed from 30 balls against RCB. With 61 calmly compiled runs from 41, Jonny's only job was to stay there to the end. Instead, he lost his head with an outrageous head-in-the-air heave at Yuzvendra Chahal, the one man in the attack it would have been prudent to see off. Vijay Shankar was done in one ball later as Sunrisers lost their last seven in 27 to lose by 10. Bairstow wasn't able to atone against KKR either, a sticky start coming to an even stickier end against Pat Cummins in a seven-wicket loss.
Jos Buttler's quiet re-emergence
He missed RR's first match against CSK while remaining in quarantine with his family, and he missed out in the bunfight against KXIP too - just four runs from seven balls as his first attacking stroke resulted in a sharp low catch at midwicket. It's fair to presume that someone, somewhere, will be made to pay before long.
And the bench-warmers
Moeen Ali (RCB) and Tom Banton (KKR) are waiting in the wings for their first outings of the tournament. Ben Stokes (RR), meanwhile, has been getting his bowling boots back on in New Zealand, and could yet return from compassionate leave in early October.