Big-hitting Windies T20 batsman, Kieron Pollard, failed to move closer to a historic IPL milestone after being dismissed for just 7 in the season opener, which pitted Mumbai Indians against Royal Challengers Bangalore at Chepauk Stadium on Friday.

Pollard remains just two sixes shy of 200 IPL sixes, a feat which has been achieved by just five other five batsmen.  At the top of the list is Pollard’s compatriot and Punjab Kings batsman Chris Gayle (349), Royal Challengers Bangalore premier batsman AB de Villiers is next (235), followed by Chennai Super Kings (CSK) captain MS Dhoni (216), Mumbai Indians (MI) Rohit Sharma (213), and RCB skipper Virat Kohli (201) close the list.

In Friday’s encounter, Pollard was, however, undone by a slower delivery from Harshal Patel and caught in the deep by Washington Sundar.  The player’s 7 runs consisted of just one four with no sixes.  RCB won the thrilling encounter by just two wickets.  Batting first Mumbai made 159 for 8 before RCB, needing 7 off the last over, ended with 160 for 8 off the final ball of the over.  RCB batsman AB De Villiers top-scored with 48 from 27 deliveries.

 

Harshal Patel hit the winning run off the last ball after claiming a five-wicket haul as Royal Challengers Bangalore beat Mumbai Indians in a thrilling first game of the Indian Premier League.

Defending champions Mumbai collapsed from 94-1 after 11 overs to 159-9 after being put in by Virat Kohli, all-rounder Harshal taking 5-27 in Chennai on Friday and Chris Lynn top-scoring with 49.

Four wickets fell in the final over of the holders' innings at M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, with Harshal claiming his maiden five-wicket T20 haul in the first match of his second spell with RCB following his Delhi Capitals exit.

Bangalore were cruising with Kohli (33) and new signing Glenn Maxwell (39) at the crease, but it was game on when they were 122-6 in the 17th over after losing four wickets for 24 runs.

AB de Villiers looked set to see them home, but RCB were left needing two off as many balls for victory when the maverick wicketkeeper-batsman was run out for 48.

Harshal held his nerve to take a single off the final delivery from IPL debutant Marco Jansen (2-28), sealing a dramatic two-wicket win for big-spending RCB.

Five-time champions Mumbai, bidding to become the first team to win the tournament three times in a row, were ultimately made to pay for scoring only 25 runs in the last four overs of their innings.

Late Harshal burst rocks Mumbai

The holders appeared set to post a challenging total with Indians debutant Lynn and Suryakumar Yadav at the crease after Rohit Sharma was run out for 19, but they capitulated in spectacular fashion.

Powerful new recruit Lynn struck three sixes as the Australian and Suryakumar (31) put on 70 for the second wicket before they were removed by Washington Sundar and big-money signing Kyle Jamieson (1-27) respectively.

Paceman Harshal then took centre stage, trapping Ishan Kishan lbw before dismissing Krunal Pandya, Kieron Pollard and Jansen in an incredible final over that ended with Rahul Chahar being run out. 

 

De Villiers delivers, Harshal the hero

Maxwell put on a show along with Kohli after Sundar and Rajat Patidar fell cheaply, clearing the rope twice.

The Australia all-rounder was on his way when he ramped Jansen to Lynn at short fine leg and the South African paceman struck for a second time in the 15th over to send Shahbaz Ahmed packing.

De Villiers made it advantage RCB as 15 runs came off the 18th over from Trent Boult and although he was run out by Krunal after hitting a couple of sixes in a brilliant 27-ball knock, Harshal ensured his innings was not in vain.

Mumbai Indians are favourites to claim a historic third successive Indian Premier League crown back on home soil.

The Indians retained their title in Dubai last year with a victory over Delhi Capitals, taking their record tally of IPL triumphs to a five.

Rohit Sharma's side will be the team to beat in a competition that will be played in Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, having been staged overseas in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Capitals and Royal Challengers Bangalore look the most likely sides to prevent Mumbai from becoming the first franchise to win three consecutive IPL titles.

We pick out some of the things to look out for in what promises to be a mouthwatering extravaganza of cricket, which starts on Friday in a country that will stage the T20 World Cup later this year.

 

INDIANS PRIMED FOR THREE IN A ROW

The champions start the defence of their title with a blockbuster showdown against RCB in the first game of the tournament at M. A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai.

Mumbai will have to wait for Quinton de Kock's arrival as he is on duty with South Africa, so skipper Rohit will be expected to set the tone at the top of the order.

The India opener is the fourth-highest run-scorer in IPL history with 5,230 at an average of 31.31 and, although the 2020 edition was not one of his best, he struck a rapid 68 in the final. Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav played significant hands with the bat in Mumbai's 2020 success.

Trent Boult was man of the match in that win over Delhi after taking 3-30 and the New Zealand seamer will have a big part to play with the ball along with Jasprit Bumrah.

 

STAND-IN SKIPPER PANT CAN LEAD BY EXAMPLE

Delhi's first IPL final proved to be painful in November, but they will fancy their chances of going one better under the captaincy of Rishabh Pant.

The addition of Steve Smith, who was released by Rajasthan Royals, is a major tonic, while Umesh Yadav and Sam Billings are among their other new recruits.

Kagiso Rabada was the leading wicket-taker in last year's tournament with 30 at 18.26 and Delhi will need him to fire again along with fellow Proteas quick Anrich Nortje.

Ravichandran Ashwin should be on a high from his Test exploits for India against England, while the in-form Pant can thrive as skipper with Shreyas Iyer ruled out due to a shoulder injury.

MORRIS UNDER PRESSURE TO JUSTIFY PRICE TAG

Chris Morris became the most expensive signing in IPL history when he was snapped up by Rajasthan Royals for 16.25crore (around £1.6million).

That staggering fee put the South Africa all-rounder ahead of Yuvraj Singh (16cr) as the biggest ever auction acquisition.

Morris was 20th on the list of the leading wicket-takers last year when featuring for RCB and only batted five times, with a top score of 25 not out.

 

ROY TO REUNITE WITH BAIRSTOW

England batsman Roy went unsold at auction but was drafted in by Sunrisers Hyderabad last week after Mitchell Marsh withdrew for personal reasons.

Sunrisers coach Trevor Bayliss was clearly excited by the prospect of Roy and Jonny Bairstow forming a pairing that has served England so well.

Roy may have to wait for his opportunity or Sunrisers could tinker with the order, as captain David Warner and Bairstow have formed a dangerous opening pairing.

Chris Morris became the most expensive signing in the history of the Indian Premier League as franchises filled out their rosters during Thursday's auction in Chennai. 

Morris was eventually signed by Rajasthan Royals - who he played for in 2015 - following a bidding war that saw four teams battling it out to secure the services of the South African all-rounder. 

His final price finished up at 16.25crore, which equates to around £1.6million, putting him ahead of Yuvraj Singh (16cr) on the list of biggest auction purchases in the global Twenty20 tournament.

"I'm super-stoked, super-humbled to be joining Rajasthan again," Morris said in a video message posted by his new team on Twitter.

"I had an unbelievably good time, and a good season, one of the better times in my cricket career, with Rajasthan in 2015, so I'm unbelievably happy, unbelievably excited.

"We have a very good squad, so joining up with Rajasthan is a very cool experience."

Royal Challengers Bangalore were big spenders in their bid to secure a maiden title this year, getting New Zealand paceman Kyle Jamieson for 14.25cr (£1.5m) having already signed Australia all-rounder Glenn Maxwell (14cr - £1.4m) for a fraction less than that earlier in proceedings. 

Jhye Richardson also collected a huge deal, snapped up for the same price as compatriot Maxwell by Punjab Kings, who added another Australian paceman to their roster in Riley Meredith, who has yet to play international cricket in any format. 

Having been released by Rajasthan Royals at the start of this year, Steve Smith is now a member of the Delhi Capitals, along with India fast bowler Umesh Yadav and Englishman Sam Billings. 

Moeen Ali saw a considerable rise from his base price, the England all-rounder eventually going for a final sum of £700,000 to Chennai Super Kings. 

While a premium was paid for pace bowling during the auction, the market was a little less frantic for batsmen. 

Dawid Malan – who sits top of the International Cricket Council's batting rankings in the shortest format – will play for Punjab Kings, but English openers Alex Hales and Jason Roy both went unsold. 

Bangladesh all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan is heading back to the Kolkata Knight Riders for 3.2crore (£315,000), while Krishnappa Gowtham went for 9.25crore (£900,000) to the Super Kings, making him the most expensive uncapped India player ever.

As for Mumbai Indians, the main additions by the two-time defending champions came to their bowling attack as they added Adam Milne, Nathan Coulter-Nile and leg-spinner Piyush Chawla. 

The 14th edition of the IPL is scheduled to begin during April and run into May. Last year's delayed tournament was staged in the United Arab Emirates due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Dale Steyn has announced he will not be playing in the Indian Premier League this year, though the fast bowler insists he is not retiring just yet. 

Steyn was part of the Royal Challengers Bangalore squad for the 2020 edition of the Twenty20 tournament, with the competition temporarily moved to the United Arab Emirates due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in India.

The 37-year-old played in three games, taking one wicket, but has made himself unavailable for the franchise in the 2021 campaign. 

However, revealing his decision on Twitter, South Africa's record wicket-taker in Test cricket confirmed he will still feature in other T20 leagues around the world in the coming months, as he has no immediate plans to hang up the bowling boots just yet.

"Just a short message to let everyone know that I've made myself unavailable for RCB at this year's IPL," Steyn wrote.

"I'm also not planning on playing for another team, just taking some time off during that period. Thank you to RCB for understanding. No I'm not retired."

He then posted a further tweet, adding: "I will be playing in other leagues, nicely spaced out to give myself a opportunity to do something's [sic] I've been excited about as well as continue to play the game I love so much. 

"NO, I'm NOT retired."

Steyn did retire from Test cricket in August 2019, finishing his career in the longest format with 439 wickets at an outstanding average of 22.95.

However, he has continued to play for the Proteas in the T20 format; his most recent international appearance came against Australia in February 2020.

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