The Opening week of Vivo IPL 2016 witnessed a wide variety of matches ranging from edge-of-the-seat thrillers to lopsided ones. Nine games were played over the last week in which several eminent players and unknowncommodities made their mark and helped their respective sides seal victories in the first round of the tournament.
The week started with the game between 2014 finalists Kings XI Punjab and tournament debutants Gujarat Lions at the PCA Stadium in Mohali. The Gujarat franchise which inherits a fragment of the erstwhile CSK core group in the forms of Captain Suresh Raina, RavindraJadeja, Dwyane Bravo and Brendon McCullum made a positive start to their campaign by thrashing the home side by 5 wickets.
Lions’ skipper Suresh Raina opted to field first after winning the toss and their Caribbean recruit Dwyane Bravo (4/22) played an instrumental role in restricting the Kings XI score to 161/6 at the end of 20 overs. Barring Murali Vijay (42), MananVohra (38) and Aussie Marcus Stoinis (33), no one from the home team could put up a solid resistance with the bat. Chasing a target of 162, the Lions suffered an early jolt when they lost McCullum for a duck in the very first over of their innings. That however did not deter them from cruising to a comfortable five-wicket victory, courtesy valiant contributions from Aaron Finch (74), Suresh Raina (20) and Dinesh Karthik (41*). Finch was adjudged the Man of The Match for his scintillating 74 off 47 balls; a knock which included a dozen boundaries.
The second game of the week saw hot favourites Royal Challengers Bangalore in action against Sunrisers Hyderabad at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium on Tuesday evening. Batting first, the Royal Challengers posted a humongous total of 227 on the board; thanks to half centuries from ViratKohli (75) and AB de Villiers (82). Young Sarfaraz Khan (35 off 10 balls) played a belligerent cameo towards the end to pilot the total to 227. In reply, SRH made a reasonably good start to the chase but failed to keep pace with the mounting asking rate, thus handing a 45-run victory to the home side. Sunrisers’ skipper David Warner top scored for his team with 58 (from 25 balls). Proteas’ ODI skipper AB de Villiers picked up the ‘Man of the Match’ award.
On 13th April, GautamGambhir’s Kolkata Knight Riders squared off against defending champions Mumbai Indians at the Eden Gardens. After scoring an unbeaten 38 in KKR’s inaugural game of the season against Delhi Daredevils at the same venue three days before, the 34-year old KKR skipper’s willow yielded yet another productive innings as the left handed batsman scored a gritty 64 (off 54 balls) and looked determined to put his sideon course for a first innings total of no less than 200. But a disciplined bowling display by the likes of Harbhajan Singh and JaspritBumrah meant they couldn’t score more than 188/4. In the end, Mumbai Indians emerged victorious owing to 2 gallant partnerships which turned the tide in their favour (first the opening partnership between Pathiv Patel and Rohit Sharma which accounted for 53 runs and later a 66-run stand for the 4th wicket between Rohit Sharma and Jos Buttler; the latter made 41 in 22 balls). MI skipper Rohit Sharma’s love affair with the Eden continued as he bagged the ‘Man of the Match’ award for his unbeaten 84 runs.
The Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium on April 14 witnessed the latest entrants into the Billion dollar league (Gujarat Lions and Rising Pune Supergiants) take on each other. The toss was won by the visiting Captain, M.S Dhoni who elected to bat first on what was expected to be a high-scoring pitch. In spite of the opening pair of AjinkyaRahane (21) and Faf du Plessis(69 off 43 balls) getting them off to a good start, the Pune based franchise could manage to accumulate only 163 runs at the expense of 5 wickets from their allotted 20 overs. Lethargic batting display from Pune’s middle order plus ameticulousbowling display by the Lions’ bowlers (especially their spinners) deterred Dhoni’s side from posting anything over 180. RavindraJadeja starred with the ball for the home side as he finished with figures of 2/18 from his quota of 4 overs. The Suresh Raina led Gujarat side had no difficulty whatsoever in chasing down the target with Aaron Finch top scoring for the side yet again with a startling 74 off 47 balls and was ably aided by his opening partner Brendon McCullumat the other end who hit a crisp 49 off 31 balls. The jury adjudicating the Man of the Match award clearly had no other choice but to name Finch the ‘Man of the Match’ for his effusive performance.
The following day, Zaheer Khan’s Delhi Daredevils locked horns with David Miller’s Kings XI Punjab at the Feroz Shah Kotla. After suffering a disappointing defeat at the hands of KKR in their first match, the Daredevils bounced back in emphatic fashion by defeating the Punjab side by 8 wickets. Having won the toss, DD skipper Zaheer Khan opted to field first. The 37-year old veteran left arm seamer produced an astounding spell as he bowled a maiden right up front. He marshalled his troops equally well and finished his 4-over quota with figures of 4-1-14-1. Leg-spinner Amit Mishra reaffirmed his mettle by running through Kings XI’s middle order and returned with figures of 3-0-11-4.The lackadaisical approach of the Kings XI batsmen at the crease piled further misery on the visitors as they put up a mere total of 111/9 on the board.
Chasing a target of 112, the Daredevils were never in a spot of bother. South African wicket-keeper batsman Quinton de Kock got off to a flying start as he exhibited a wide array of strokes en route to 59* off 42 balls (9 fours and a six). Even though, his opening partner ShreyasIyer perished to Sandeep Sharma in the third over of the DD innings (having got an inside edge), one down batsman and Indian prodigy Sanju Samson united with de Kock in the middle to take the team closer to the desired target. Post Samson’s (33) dismissal, PawanNegi came out to bat at No. 4 and bludgeoned a six over deep mid-wicket to seal Delhi’s first victory this season. 33 year old Amit Mishra was selected as ‘Man of the Match’ for his decisive spell. It was Mishra’s 100th IPL game and his 4 wickets put him second to only LasithMalinga in the list of the highest wicket-takers in IPL history with 116 wickets.
The weekend had two sumptuous double headers in store for the cricket-frenzied fans of the country.
On Saturday (April 16) evening, two-time IPL champions Kolkata Knight Riders took on David Warner’s Sunrisers Hyderabad in an away fixture at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad. The game was of special significance for the KKR camp as it marked the return of Trinidadian mystery spinner Sunil Narine who had been out of action for some time due to his suspected bowling action and later for his father’s demise. The flip of the coin was won by home skipper Warner who decided to bat first on an energy-sapping afternoon at Uppal. The home side was whipped up by the Knight bowlers from the outset of the match as both their openers, David Warner and ShikharDhawan were sent back to the pavilion within the first six overs courtesy strikes from UmeshYadav and MorneMorkel (who was playing his first game of the season). Eoin Morgan (51 off 43 balls) and NamanOjha(37 off 28 deliveries) did try to endure the dominance of the KKR bowlers by stitching together a partnership worth 67 for the fifth wicket but frail contributions from the rest of the batting order meant they could put up only 142/7 at the conclusion of the first innings.Yadav was the pick of the Knight bowlers with figures of 3/28. MorneMorkel scalped 2 wickets for 35 runs whereas comeback man Sunil Narine finished with tidy figures of 4-0-26-0.
The Knights not even for a single moment looked perturbed by the task at hand. The ever-so-consistent opening pair of Robin Uthappa and GautamGambhirrecorded yet another fifty-run partnership to their credit; a 92-run partnership to be precise. Uthappa (38 off 34 balls; 3 fours and a six), who has been in fine touch this season was scalped by an Ashish Reddy delivery which trapped him plumb in front in the 13th over. The MVP of the previous edition, Andre Russell followed suit as he perished to a wonderfully executed slower yorker by Bangladshi sensation MustafiurRahman. After the kind of foundation the openers had laid for the team, a victory was a mere formality and KKR Captain GautamGambhir continued his run scoring spree to produce a magical knock of 90* off 60 balls which earned him a deserved ‘Man of the Match’ awardwhich piloted his side to an 8-wicket win over their Hyderabadi counterparts.
Later in the evening, Mumbai Indians were up against the Gujarat Lions at a jam-packed Wankhede Stadium. Mumbai who hitherto had a topsy-turvy run in the tournament this season with a loss and win each in the two games they played prior to Saturday’s encounter needed heroic performances from its star players to turn the tables around against league toppers Gujarat. Visiting Captain Suresh Raina won the toss and asked the hosts to bat first. Rohit Sharma gotout early in the first innings as he was caught by ShadabJakati off DhawalKulkarni’s bowling in the 2nd over. His opening partner Parthiv Patel (34) once against got off to a good start but failed to capitalise on it. Thereafter the middle order fell like a pack of cards until contributions from AmbatiRayudu (20), debutant KrunalPandya (20) and Tim Southee (25) lower down the order propelled the score to 143/8 at the end of their innings.Chasing a target of 144, Brendon McCullum hit a humongous six over deep square leg off the bowling of fellow countryman Tim Southee before getting out cheaply to Bumrah the very next over. Post McCullum’s dismissal, Raina and Finch put up 53 runs for the second wicket. Raina(27) was scalped by Mitchell McClenaghan in the ninth over which for a brief time created havoc in the Gujarat camp. Although the target seemed relatively puny for the Lions, fall of wickets at regular intervals in the middle overs stunted their run rate for a short while. At one point in time, the Lions were reeling at 131/7 becauseMcClenaghan was belching forth fire with the ball as he returned with figures of 4/21. Much to the surprise of the spectators, the game went down to the wire. 11 runs were needed off the final over where after negotiating 2 good deliveries from Bumrah, No. 9 batsman Kulkarni smacked a boundary through mid-off to ease the pressure off Finch who held his nerves till the end and hit a boundary over mid-wicket topull off a memorable triumph for his side. Finch (67 off 54 balls) clinched the ‘Man of the Match’ for the third time in a row for scoring his third successive fifty on a trot.
The final day of the week (April 17) was in for two riveting contests in two different parts of the country; first between the Kings XI Punjab and Rising Pune Supergiants in Mohali and later in the day, the action shifted to the south when ViratKohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore faced off against Delhi Daredevils in Bangalore.
Talking of the first game, RPSG won the toss and decided to bat first. AjinkyaRahane’s dismissal early in the innings might have created a few apprehensions among the RPSG players, but South African T20I Captain Faf du Plessis calmed the jitters in the Pune camp by pacing a well organised innings. However, despite his string of consistent scores, du Plessis has been consuming a lot of deliveries while building his innings like in the game concerned he accumulated 67 runs from 53 balls; that account for almost 9 overs. Furthermore inconsistent performances by the middle order and Dhoni’s hesitance to promote himself up the order have been hindering the side to go past the 180 run-mark on every occasion. Credit must also be given to the KXIP seamers who tightened the screws on the explosive RPSG middle order because of which the latter finished at 152/7 after the end of their allotted 20 overs.Mohit Sharma clinched 3 wickets for 23 runs whereas Sandeep Sharma returned with figures of 2/23. In response to RPSG’s total, the KXIP opening duo of Murali Vijay (53 off 49 balls) and MananVohra (51 off 33 balls) placed the team on a comfortable position by recording a 97-run partnership for the first wicket. Both openers went on to record individual fifties before getting out to MuruganAshwin and Ishant Sharma in overs 13 and 15 respectively. Glenn Maxwell, who was hitherto in desperate need for runs, put the icing on the cake for the home side by scoring a quick fire 32 off 14 balls (3 fours and 2 sixes) which helped his side win the contest by 6 wickets and register their first victory in this edition of the IPL. The Man of the Match award was handed over to 22 year old MananVohra for his brisk half century; his second IPL fifty in 30 matches.
It was followed by a mouth-watering clash between an in-form Delhi Daredevils side and a vibrant RCB at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium. Having won the toss, Daredevils Captain Zaheer Khan asked Kohli’s team to bat first.Ace Indian pacer Mohammed Shami was back in the thick of things for DD. On the other hand, with a plethora of superstars in their ranks, RCB were the favourites to win the game. But the RCB innings began on a sour note as Chris Gayle was dismissed for a duck in the very first over of the game, while attempting a drive outside off stump which offered a simple catch to J.P Duminy at first slip. The left handed Jamaican giant had scored a solitary run against the Sunrisers and the 36 year old will have to pull through his patchy form quickly in order to impart good starts to his side.ViratKohli was joined by AB de Villiers in the middle and like their first game, the duo set out to repair the cracks. They were successful in their endeavour as they stitched together a partnership worth 107 runs for the second wicket. AB who had scored 82 in the game against SRH registered yet another fifty to his name as he took apart the DD bowlers on his way to 55 off 33 balls (9 fours and a six). He was eventually scalped by Carlos Brathwaiteof whose bowling Mohammed Shami nabbed a catch in the twelfth over. Kohli’s tempo though was not affected by his partner’s dismissal as he was hitting the ball well and conjuring the gaps really well. The Indian Test Captain has been defying the law of averages in recent times and Sunday was no exception either. He notched up a well compiled fifty in the 14th over- his fifth in his last six T20 matches (World T20 and IPL combined). The 27 year old also brought his unorthodox game to the fore by playing a un-Kohli-esque reverse sweep. Recently retired Aussie all-rounder Shane Watson ably supported his skipper by propping up a blazing 33 off 19 balls (3 fours and 2 sixes). The DD bowlers who looked like mere spectators for a major part of the first innings pegged their side back into the contest by truncating the flow of runs at the death. Watson, Sarfaraz Khan and Kohli were all dismissed in quick succession, leaving the Royals Challengers placed at 191/5 at the close of the first innings. Only 27 runs were scored off the last 5 overs and RCB were clearly short of another 20-30 runs. Kohli top scored for the home side with 79 runs whereas Mohammed Shami starred with the ball for DD with figures of 2/34. 192 was no scrawny target by any standard and the first over of the DD innings raised hopes among the home spectators when Watson combined with David Wiese to pull off a blinder in the outfield, which sent a shell-shocked Iyer back to the pavilion. The RCB fans were throbbing in anticipation of yet another convincing victory at home ground. But Quinton de Kock emerged as the prime barrier between RCB and a victory as all their efforts were put to shade by him who played a blitzkrieg and recorded his maiden IPL ton (108 off 51 balls; 15 fours and a six) to take his team to a 7-wicket win with 5 balls to spare. Karun Nair remained unbeaten on 54 off 42 balls and played a supporting hand to de Kock right throughout the innings. There evidently wasn’t any other contender for the Man of the Match award except the 23 year old South African who produced a gem of a knock amidst the anxiety of scoreboard pressure.
The Gujarat Lions led the points table with a winning streak of 3 matches, while Sunrisers Hyderabad was languishing at the bottom having lost their first two games till Sunday evening.
This is how the points table looked on Sunday, 17th April 2016 after the game between RCB and DD.
Let us now quickly glance through the highest run-scorers and wicket-takers of Vivo IPL 2016 up until now.
ORANGE CAP LIST (as on 17th April 2016)
|1. GautamGambhir (KKR)||3||192||90* v/s SRH||192|
|2. Aaron Finch (GL)||3||191||74 v/s KXIP||95.50|
|3. Quinton de Kock (DD)||3||184||108 v/s RCB||92|
|4. Faf du Plessis (RPS)||3||170||69 v/s GL||56.66|
|5. ViratKohli (RCB)||3||154||79 v/s KXIP||77|
PURPLE CAP LIST (as on 17th April 2016)
|BOWLER||MATCHES||WICKETS||Economy Rate||Strike Rate|
|1. MuruganAshwin (RPS)||3||6||6.91||12|
|2. Dwyane Bravo (GL)||3||6||8.66||12|
|3. Mitchell McClenaghan (MI)||3||6||7.33||14.5|
|4. Amit Mishra (DD)||3||5||6||9.6|
|5. Andre Russell (KKR)||3||5||8.63||13.2|
Choosing the ‘Performer of the Week’ is never an easy task, especially when you have so many magnificent acts to pick from. Quinton de Kock, Amit Mishra, ViratKohli, AB de Villiers and GautamGambhir were all in contention for the label, but for his 191 runs from 3 games, at an average of 95.50 (which includes three consecutive fifties in a row), Gujarat Lions’ Aaron Finch is Cric Fit’s ‘Performer of the Week’ after the conclusion of the first round. Gambhir (192 runs in 3 games) too was in close run for the title but Finch who is representing his sixth franchise in the IPL has made greater impact with the willow so far, becoming only the 4th player to clinch three successive ‘Man of the Match’ awards. His exhibition of sheer tranquillity in the final few overs of Gujarat’s crunch contest against the Mumbai Indians has made him a deserving candidate for this recognition.
PERFORMER OF THE WEEK- Aaron Finch (Gujarat Lions).
This brings us to the end of this week’s review of Vivo IPL 2016. Stay tuned to this space for all the latest news and updates pertaining to the tournament where cricket meets entertainment..