Buckle up, it's time for the IPL 2021 to begin! To get us started, we have Rohit Sharma's Mumbai Indians, the defending champions, taking on Virat Kohli's Royal Challengers Bangalore. Tonight we'll see Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard and Jasprit Bumrah facing off against AB de Villiers, Glenn Maxwell and Yuzvendra Chahal. If this blog doesn't load for you, click here.
Harshal Patel digs out a near yorker last ball to take RCB to a win in a thrilling finish. Harshal had taken a five-for earlier in the night to restrict Mumbai to 160. It was that once-in-a-generation slow end from Mumbai, and then some genius of AB de Villiers that has sealed the win for RCB. This is the eighth time in a row that Mumbai have lost their first match of the IPL. If this start is anything to go by, we are in for some ride this IPL. Thanks for joining us tonight.
Why no Bumrah against Maxwell?
Rohit and Mumbai Indians are big on match-ups. And here is a match-up if ever there was one: Japsrit Bumrah has taken Glenn Maxwell out six times in 58 balls in T20 cricket for just 67 runs. Rohit usually brings Bumrah on as soon as Maxwell comes on to bat, but not on this occasion. By the end of the 10th over, Maxwell has faced 15 balls, but none from Bumrah.
It is not as though Rohit is not aware of the match-up. Is he saving Bumrah up for AB de Villiers? Or does he think a slightly older ball will provide Bumrah's slower balls more grip?
Introducing Rajat Patidar
Shashank Kishore has been on the ball, and has produced this piece immediately after it was confirmed Patidar was making his IPL debut
"It's been amazing, the last few months," Patidar says. "The night of the IPL auction, I received a text from Virat, saying 'welcome Rajat, wishing you the best, go smash it.' I didn't even have his number. Now, getting a chance to bat with him in the nets and maybe even in the matches will be a dream."
There have been only three one-run final overs in the IPL. Harshal Patel joined Praveen Kumar and Dale Steyn, both of whom managed it back in 2008.
How did Harshal Patel outdo the Mumbai hitting machinery?
Harshal Patel's five-for was the first five-wicket haul against Mumbai Indians in all IPL. More important than that, his bowling at the death kept Mumbai to just 25 off the last four overs, their lowest since 2016. Harshal took the wickets of the designated death-overs hitters, Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard and Krunal Pandya, to go with Ishan Kishan in his last three overs.
Two things happened, which both had to do with the pitch in all likelihood. The ball reversed for him, and it gripped the surface too. It was probably down to a dry track. It was expected the bowlers would go for slower balls into the surface to use both the surface and the dimensions of the ground, but the little bit of tail made Harshal even more dangerous. RCb bowled slower 23 balls in the last five overs, which accounted for four wickets and just 29 runs.
Expect Mumbai to do more of the same?
Did Virat Kohli miss a trick by not bowling Washington Sundar earlier than the 13th over?
It's a slow, low surface, and Washington Sundar is at his home ground. He is at Chepauk where he has played most of his cricket, but he hasn't been used in the first 11 overs. The most obvious reasons might be all the right-hand batsmen at the top of Mumbai Indians' batting order. However, there is another trend here.
Sundar came to prominence with his superb restrictive performances with the ball in the Powerplay for Rising Pune Supergiant. Then he joined Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2018. So 2017 remains the only year in which he bowled more overs in the Powerplay than the middle overs.
Protecting fingerspinners against right-hand batsmen makes sense, but if there is an offspinner you would back against right-hand batsmen, it is Sundar. In all IPL, he has a better average against right-hand batsmen than left (26.4 as against 39.22) and only a slightly worse economy rate (6.9 as against 6.83).
Also Glenn Maxwell, who bowled a lot in the Powerplay for Kings XI Punjab last year, hasn't been used at all. Could RCB have made better use of their spinners on this slow surface?
Mumbai Indians 94 for 2 in 11 overs.
Early signs of a slow, low pitch
It is evident from the bottom edges in the first four overs. This is a slow pitch with low bounce, and Chris Lynn is struggling to force the pace. Rohit Sharma has been run out after he did create the pace in a couple of shots by advancing down. This might be a very good toss to win because if there is any dew the pitch might quicken up a little later in the night. Mumbai Indians 24 for 1 after four overs
Virat Kohli has finally won a toss. RCB have decided to field. There is a whole new look to RCB. Glenn Maxwell, Kyle Jamieson, Dan Christian. Devdutt Paddikal has just recovered from Covid-19, and has been advised not to play this game. Rajat Patidar comes in in his place.
Mumbai Indians are so settled they have made just the two changes from the last final, and one of them is forced because Quinton de Kock is still in quarantine. Chris Lynn comes in as does Jansen. Two changes is what Rohit Sharma said at the toss. There are three. Seems he forgot the tactical inclusion of Jayant Yadav in the final. I sure forgot. So Rahul Chahar is in too.
Royal Challengers Bangalore 1 Virat Kohli (capt.), 2 Rajat Patidar, 3 AB de Villiers (wk), 4 Glenn Maxwell, 5 Daniel Christian, 6 Washington Sundar, 7 Kyle Jamieson, 8 Shahbaz Ahmed 9 Harshal Patel, 10 Mohammed Siraj, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal
Among the multitude of people MS Dhoni has influenced is Rishabh Pant. The 23-year-old became the fifth-youngest captain in the IPL after the Delhi Capitals appointed Pant as the interim captain this season after Shreyas Iyer was ruled out due shoulder surgery. At his first toss Pant will walk out with Dhoni, on Saturday, and he has promised to expect something different.
Millions mean nothing to Glenn Maxwell, who has said he wants to be a "positive influence" on the group. But former Indian opener and IPL-winning captain Gautam Gambhir reminds Maxwell here that why it is important for him to be consistent, something he was in 2014 IPL when he won the Most Valuable Player award.
Talking about impact players, there are few who can match Kieron Pollard, who has been the key backbone for five-time IPL champions Mumbai Indians, the team he joined in 2009 IPL. And it was Pollard's knock in the final of the 2013 edition that helped Mumbai win their first title. Pollard's 32-ball 60 is among ESPNcricinfo's Greatest IPL Performances series.
There are also a host of expansive interviews to choose from: T Natarajan talks about his fairy tale journey since the last IPL. Test specialist Cheteshwar Pujara returns to the IPL after seven years, to a format he believes is a "piece of cake". T20 specialist Dan Christian returns to the IPL after a forgettable outing last time, and is ready to make a mark even as he will turn 38 during the tournament at the Royal Challengers.
Robin Uthappa reveals how he is coming into grips with specialist roles of a topo-order batsman that has evolved rapidly.
Also have a listen to the IPL-10 series where Shubman Gill talks about not only scoring the "most runs" but also dominating a bowler, that has been among the best bowlers in the tournament for the past few years. Others in this series include Shakib-Al-Hasan, who is back in the IPL, at Kolkata Knight Riders and wants to score a 100 and take 5-for.
It is not all normal at Cricinfo. There's a Covid baby here. Please welcome the newest member of the family, Cricinfo Hindi. This is from a welcome note from our editor Sambit Bal. And here is the first live Hindi scorecard on Cricinfo
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So we now have a team that will bring Hindi commentary to you, with all the flavours that the language merits and you deserve. We have spent the last few weeks discussing tone and temper and words and idioms, and we have been energised by the new flush of enthusiasm in our commentary team. But now we will let their natural impulse and instinct take over. Engage with them, let them know what you like and what you don't and we will learn together. And, while at it, you can follow ESPNcricinfo Hindi on Facebook and on Twitter.
It's been a hard hard year/
Pushing shit uphill/
But shit happens all the time/
And I guess it always will
Now the days are getting long/
Summer's on its way/
I can't wait for Christmas/
'Cause the day after Christmas is Boxing Day
You'll know where to find me/
Ten rows back at the MCG/
Right behind the bowler's arm/
Right behind the bowler's arm
That is the legendary Paul Kelly's legendary welcome to the grand occasion of Boxing Day Test in Australia. We are living a dystopian version of this song in India and in the rest of the world. It's been a - pardon my French - shitty year-and-a-half, and I really don't know if cricket or any sport can provide a distraction from what is going on. All I know is, any activity going on with any semblance of normalcy is a message that we need to get up and keep living and working no matter what. So here is to a somewhat normal IPL 2021