India ended the opening day of the third Test against England firmly on top despite losing Virat Kohli in the final over, closing on 99-3 having bowled out their opponents for 112.

The day-night contest at the newly named Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad was viewed in the build-up as a chance for the seam bowlers to take centre stage, with the four-match series between the teams delicately poised at 1-1.

However, it was India's spinners who once again dominated proceedings, Axar Patel claiming career-best figures of 6-38 to continue his outstanding start in Test cricket. Ravichandran Ashwin - one of the star performers for India as they won the second Test in Chennai - offered superb support, taking 3-26. 

Johnny Bairstow was the first of several players to be undone by deliveries that failed to turn at all, though, as his return to the team saw him trapped lbw for a duck, leaving the tourists at 27-2 after opting to bat first. 

Zak Crawley (53) countered impressively, playing some glorious shots off the front foot in particular as he and Joe Root added 47, only for England to then suffer a stunning collapse, their final eight wickets going down for just 38 runs.

Ashwin had Root lbw for 17 – despite the England captain attempting to get a reprieve through a review – before Crawley's fluent half-century came to an end when he fell in similar fashion to Axar. 

Ollie Pope (1) and Ben Stokes (6) both perished with the score stuck on 81, England's batsmen left bamboozled once more on a turning surface to leave a long tail exposed. 

Axar claimed three of the final four wickets to go down, wrapping up the innings when Ben Foakes was bowled for 12. England had lasted just 48.2 overs, posting their lowest first-innings score in India. 

Following a superb century in the previous match, the in-form Rohit Sharma led India's reply with an unbeaten 57 that included nine fours.

Fellow opener Shubman Gill found it tougher going as he made only 11, while Cheteshwar Pujara departed for a four-ball duck to Jack Leach. The left-arm spinner also struck late to give his team renewed hope, Kohli chopping on for 27, but the hosts undoubtedly were the happier team at stumps.

Super start continues for Axar 

Axar is the first Indian spinner to take a five-wicket haul in a day-night Test, while only the sixth slow bowler to do so in such fixtures with the pink ball. 

Having missed the series opener through injury - a game England won convincingly - he has now taken 13 wickets in the series at an average of 10.61, stunning numbers for a player who has had to wait patiently for his chance in the format. 

Zak back, but England topple quickly 

With Crawley and Root together, England appeared to have overcome two early setbacks to reach 74-2 just prior to the first break in proceedings on Wednesday. The former justified the decision to pick him over Rory Burns, hitting 10 fours to at times silence the 40,000-strong crowd present. 

Yet the right-hander was not alone in falling into the trap of playing for spin that was simply not there, hit on the front pad by a delivery from Axar that instead of turning went straight on.

 

Rohit Sharma's display of "positive intent" is exactly what India needed as they looked to put their defeat to England in the first Test behind them, explained Ajinkya Rahane.

Joe Root inspired England to an impressive victory in the opening Test of the four-match series at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, but the first day of the second game went India's way.

That was, by and large, down to the supreme efforts of opener Rohit, who scored 161 of India's 300 runs as they finished the day six wickets down.

India's best partnership of the day came when Rohit combined with vice-captain Rahane (67) to put on a crucial 162-run stand after the hosts had been reduced to 86-3 in Chennai.

"I thought it was proper Indian conditions and we knew it [the pitch] would turn from day one," said Rahane.

"We were talking about partnerships – Rohit and [Cheteshwar] Pujara and then Rohit and myself. We were discussing intent – positive intent on this wicket.

"What happened in the first game was [in the] past. You can't be too defensive on this wicket and need to be one step ahead of the opposition.

"We discussed in our batting meeting on what shots to play and we had to make them change the game plan. That's what Rohit did [playing sweeps] – 150-plus on this wicket is really good. I enjoyed the cover-drive against Moeen Ali against the spin."

After striking 18 fours and a pair of sixes, Rohit's aggressive batting eventually proved his downfall, with the opener sweeping Jack Leach to Moeen in the deep.

Rishabh Pant (33 not out) and Axar Patel (five n.o) pushed India to the 300 milestone before play ended, and Rahane believes Virat Kohli's team are one more partnership shy of taking a real edge in the match.

"Add another 50-60 runs from here [will be good for us]. One more partnership from Rishabh and Axar... we're in the game," he added.

"When they were adjusting the pace and bowling quicker through the air, it was difficult."

England spinner Leach finished the day with figures of 2-78, and reflected on a difficult start for the tourists.

"I think it was definitely a hard day," Leach told Channel 4. "[Olly] Stone was back and got an early wicket and Moeen got Kohli out with a magic ball.

"It got a bit easier [to bat] as the ball got older, and you need to get partnerships and that's something we need to hold onto. We were pleased to get wickets in the end and we're in the game.

"I will reflect on my performance in the evening. I tried to bowl in a good area and see how the pitch will react. Sometimes, you need to push it through quicker and as the ball becomes older, [you] need to bowl it quicker.

"It's similar to bowling to Taunton, just pretending it's Taunton! I was cramping up and bit sore in the end – I'll be back tomorrow."

Rohit Sharma hit a brilliant 161 to help India overcome a difficult start to the second Test against England, the hosts eventually ending the opening day on 300-6 in Chennai. 

Opener Rohit combined with vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane (67) to put on a crucial 162-run partnership for the fourth wicket on a pitch offering considerable help for the spinners from the outset.  

Having so impressively won the opener in the four-match series at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, England seized early control at the same venue when reducing their opponents to 86-3.  

Moeen Ali marked his recall to the XI with the prized wicket of Virat Kohli – who was bowled for a duck – as a much-changed attack prospered in the first session after losing the toss. 

Olly Stone struck with just his third delivery, Shubman Gill paying for his decision not to offer a stroke as he was dismissed lbw, stunning those India fans inside the ground as part of a reduced crowd allowed to attend amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

Cheteshwar Pujara made 21 before steering Jack Leach (2-78) to Ben Stokes at slip, while Kohli was left stunned in the next over when Moeen turned one prodigiously through between bat and pad to bowl the India skipper before he had a run to his name.

However, the stand between Rohit and Rahane put the tourists on the back foot. Even when the former eventually fell, sweeping Leach out to Moeen in the deep, India were already on course for a useful first-innings total, considering the conditions.  

Rahane departed soon after, bowled by Moeen when trying an ambitious sweep shot of his own, while England captain Joe Root claimed the wicket of Ravichandran Ashwin (13). 

Still, Rishabh Pant carried India to 300 in the final over and will resume on day two on 33 not out. He will have Axar Patel for company, the Test debutant reaching the close unbeaten on five.

Mixed fortunes for Moeen 

England made the tough call to drop Dom Bess despite the off-spinner taking 17 Test wickets in 2021 at an average of 22.20. Root explained the decision was down to a lack of consistency, having only bowled eight overs in India's second innings in the previous game. 

His replacement, however, was by no means more economical. Moeen reached an unwanted century as he finished Saturday's play with figures of 2-112 from his 26 overs, though he did of course dismiss Kohli.

Home comforts for Rohit

Rohit passed 150 for the fourth time in Test cricket, while all of his centuries in the format have come on home soil. This, however, was his first at Chennai.

On a slow, worn surface, the right-hander went along at an impressive scoring rate of 69.70 runs per 100 deliveries, hitting 18 fours and a pair of sixes. In the end, England needed help from the batsman to see the back of him.

India batsman Rohit Sharma insisted he had no regrets over the shot he played for what could prove to be a key dismissal in the fourth Test against Australia. 

The tourists closed day two on 62-2 in reply to Australia's 369 all out at the Gabba. 

Opener Rohit had moved to 44 before he tried to attack Nathan Lyon (1-10) and was caught out by a running Mitchell Starc. 

India only need a draw to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy but their task was made more difficult by losing Rohit, who twice made starts - scoring 26 and 52 – without pressing on during the draw in Sydney. 

"I was actually trying to pierce the long-on and that deep square-leg fielder, but it didn't connect the way I would have loved to," said the 33-year-old. 

"Pretty simple. It was something I won't regret. It is something I like to do.  

"I like to put the pressure on the bowler once I am in, and that is my role in the team. To make sure I keep putting that pressure on the bowlers because we have seen throughout the series how run-scoring has been difficult for both the teams. 

"Someone needs to put his hand up and think about how we can put the pressure back on the bowlers and while doing that there are chances you will make a mistake. 

"You should be ready to accept that. I am ready to accept that because it was a plan. It was something that we always planned."

Rohit added: "I actually have no regrets playing that shot. It is something I like to do.  

"Just that Nathan Lyon - we all know he is a smart bowler - bowled into me, which made it difficult for me to get some elevation. 

"It is not coming out of nowhere. It is a shot that I play. And I have played it very well in the past. It is something that I really back myself to do all the time. That is the kind of role I play in this team.  

"Yes, when it looks like that, it looks bad, but that is something I don't think too much into." 

Sunil Gavaskar was among the former players to criticise the shot selection from Rohit, who is opening the batting in Test cricket for the first time away from home during this series. 

"I have opened for India in limited overs for a long time and it is time for me to test myself in this longer format as well," added Rohit. 

"The team has shown confidence in my ability at the top. Just that I have to do what the team expects me to do.  

"Not to worry about what happens anywhere else and what people talk about me. The team expects me to play a certain role at the top of the order, and I will try to do that as much as I can." 

Only 54.2 overs were bowled due to rain on day two. Cheteshwar Pujara (8) and Ajinkya Rahane (2) were unbeaten when stumps were called, with India 307 runs adrift.

Australia were left frustrated as day two of the fourth Test against India was cut short after rain in Brisbane.

Only 54.2 overs were bowled at the Gabba on Saturday as India reached 62-2 in response to Australia's first-innings 369.

Heavy rain delayed the start of the final session before a wet outfield meant play was abandoned.

Tim Paine scored a half-century for Australia as T Natarajan (3-78), Washington Sundar (3-89) and Shardul Thakur (3-94) took three wickets each for India.

Rohit Sharma (44) wasted his start as he tried to attack Nathan Lyon (1-10) after Pat Cummins (1-22) had Shubman Gill (7) caught at second slip by Steve Smith.

Cheteshwar Pujara (8) and Ajinkya Rahane (2) were unbeaten when stumps were called, with India 307 runs adrift in the final Test of a series that is locked at 1-1.

Injury-hit India continued to fight and they only need a draw to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

Australia, though, will also lament some of their batting that could have put India under more pressure.

Starts squandered as tail wags for Australia

Marnus Labuschagne made a century on Friday, but four other batsmen made more than 36 but failed to go on for Australia.

Paine (50) and Cameron Green (47) joined that group on day two as they squandered promising starts, with Lyon (24) – playing his 100th Test – and Mitchell Starc (20 not out) lifting Australia beyond 350.

Reckless Rohit hurts India

Like many in the Australia line-up, Rohit wasted another opportunity to put together a big score in Brisbane.

He looked in control before attempting to take on Lyon one too many times, and a running Starc took a good catch. The 33-year-old is one of India's more experienced players and his dismissal left the tourists at 60-2. It comes after he made scores of 26 and 52 in Sydney.

Australia will hope the "very likely" return of David Warner can inspire them to regain the series lead as they take on India in the third Test from Thursday.

India produced an impressive turnaround in Melbourne last time out, squaring the series at 1-1 despite being without Virat Kohli and also losing the toss.

Stand-in Ajinkya Rahane stood up in the absence of India's captain, making 112 to set the tourists up for an impressive eight-wicket victory.

However, Australia are undefeated in their last nine Tests against India at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Indeed, their only defeat in meetings between the teams at the venue came in January 1978.

The hosts reacted to the defeat by dropping out-of-sorts opener Joe Burns, having made just 63 runs in four innings during the series.

Warner and Will Pucovski were both injured and missed the first two Tests but head coach Justin Langer gave a positive update on the former, who he thinks will be able to play through the pain.

Uncapped prospect Pucovski, meanwhile, has passed concussion examinations so will challenge Travis Head for a place in the side.

BUBBLE CONCERN FOR INDIA

India had to isolate five members of their squad as a precaution in the aftermath of the Boxing Day Test, amid concerns over a breach of protocols within the bio-secure bubble.

Rishabh Pant, Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Navdeep Saini and Prithvi Shaw trained away from the rest of the squad after a video on social media showed them dining at an indoor venue in Melbourne.

However, both teams - and members of the support staff - tested negative for COVID-19 prior to travelling to Sydney to continue the four-match series.

Rohit has not featured for India on the tour so far due to injury, including missing the white-ball games that preceded the Tests, but could be involved at the SCG.

Batsman KL Rahul is out of the rest of the series with a wrist injury, ending speculation he could replace struggling Mayank Agarwal.

LANGER CONFIDENT OF SMITH RECOVERY

While the expected return of Warner could give them a boost, Australia will also be looking for a turnaround from Steve Smith.

Smith has only managed scores of 1, 0 and 8 during his completed innings in Adelaide and Melbourne, with spinner Ravichandran Ashwin having him caught in two of those three dismissals.

Ranked at three in the ICC rankings, he had only failed to reach double figures in two of his 14 previous innings since returning to Test cricket in the 2019 Ashes.

"Imagine how good we'll be when he does start batting well," said a confident Langer. "That's how I look at it.

"He hasn't had the best of series so far, he'll be the first to admit that, but my gosh, what I know about great players is the longer they miss out, the sooner it is that they're coming good again.

"So that puts a big smile on my face. I don't coach Steve Smith. Steve Smith coaches himself and I'm sure he's going to work it out. 

"He is a great player and I can't wait to watch him bat this Test match and the next Test match."

KEY OPTA FACTS

- India have lost only two of their last nine Tests against Australia (W5, D2) - they now search for back-to-back wins against them for just the second time since 2013.
- Australia's loss in the second match snapped an eight-game winning run in Tests at home; they will now look to avoid consecutive home defeats for the first time since November 2016.
- The home team dropped eight catches last time out in Melbourne, their most in a single Test since dropping nine against India in the New Year's Test of 2012 in Sydney.
- Ricky Ponting (8) is the only player to have logged more centuries at the Sydney Cricket Ground than David Warner (7) in international cricket.
- No player has taken more wickets (10) or posted a better bowling economy (2.1) than India's Ravichandran Ashwin throughout this series.
- Nathan Lyon is six wickets shy of becoming just the third Australian bowler to take 400 in men's Tests (Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath); his 89 wickets against India are his most against any team.

Steve Smith smashed Australia's third-fastest ODI century and Aaron Finch also made a sublime hundred as India were consigned to a 66-run defeat in the first match of the series.

Smith struck a sensational 105 from just 66 balls and Finch crafted 114 in Australia's massive total of 374-6 - their biggest against India in the 50-over format.

David Warner (69) also made the tourists suffer, while Glenn Maxwell bludgeoned 45 from only 19 balls in Australia's second-highest ODI total at the SCG.

Mohammed Shami (3-59) was comfortably the pick of the India bowlers on a painful Friday afternoon in the field.

Hardik Pandya struck a superb 90 and Shikhar Dhawan made 74, but India, returning to action for the first time since March due to the coronavirus pandemic, fell short on 308-8 in reply.

Josh Hazlewood (3-55) and Adam Zampa (4-54) did the damage with the ball for Australia as they started their summer in style to go 1-0 up in the three-match series.


FINCH AND WARNER MAKE HISTORY

Finch and Warner combined for the highest opening stand for Australia in an ODI at the SCG, their 156 surpassing the record of 152 set by Geoff Marsh and David Boon in 1986.

Shami finally got the breakthrough in the 28th over, snaring Warner caught behind after Virat Kohli reviewed, but Finch and Smith dished out more punishment, putting on 108 in just 12 overs.

The brilliant Finch struck two sixes and another nine fours in his fourth ODI century against India, a tally only Ricky Ponting has bettered with six, before the skipper became Jasprit Bumrah's only victim.

SENSATIONAL SMITH AND MAXWELL GO BESERK

While Finch uncharacteristically scored at less than a run a ball, Smith raced to a magnificent hundred which he reached off 62 balls.

Smith failed to hit the heights during the recent Indian Premier League but produced a disdainful knock as he dispatched the tourists' attack to all parts - Yuzvendra Chahal (1-89) conceding the most runs by an India spinner in an ODI.

The imperious Smith hit four sixes and 11 fours as he put on a show along with Maxwell, who treated the crowd to some astonishing innovative strokes in an explosive innings.

HAZLEWOOD AND ZAMPA DERAIL INDIA CHASE

India's run chase got off to a blistering start, Mitchell Starc conceding 20 off an 11-ball first over, but they were struggling on 101-4 in the 14th over - Kohli making just 21 after he was dropped by Zampa on one.

Hazlewood had Kohli caught by Finch at midwicket and the quick also saw the back of Mayank Agarwal and Shreyas Iyer.

Dhawan - dropped by Maxwell on 41 - and Pandya - playing as a specialist batsman - gave India hope with a fifth-wicket stand of 128, but spinner Zampa removed both in quick succession and got rid of Ravindra Jadeja in an ultimately comfortable win for Australia.

Aaron Finch hailed Virat Kohli as "probably the best one-day player of all time" as Australia prepare to face India in an eagerly awaited ODI series.

India have not been in action since March due to the coronavirus pandemic, but their wait will come to an end at the SCG on Friday.

Australia should be confident after beating world champions 2-1 in the 50-over format in September and both sides will welcome being able to play in front of crowds.

Kohli headed to Australia on the back of being the ninth-highest run-scorer in the Indian Premier League and Australia captain Finch has lavished praise on his opposite number ahead of the three-match series.

"If you look at his record, it's second to none. It really is remarkable," said Finch, who also featured in the IPL. "What we have to keep in mind is that we have to keep looking to get him out.

"When you go away from that and you look to contain players, you can miss a trick. He's probably the best one-day player of all time, so it's about sticking to our plans and being really committed in that regard."

Kohli will be looking not only for a series victory, but also to consolidate his status as the top-ranked ODI batsman in the world in the absence of his injured team-mate Rohit Sharma.

India paceman Jasprit Bumrah, meanwhile, could regain top spot in the bowler rankings, as he only trails New Zealand's Trent Boult by three points.

The two sides, who will wear black armbands in tribute to late Australia great Dean Jones, will be playing for ICC Cricket World Cup Super League points.

 

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS FOR AGARWAL

A hamstring injury sustained during the IPL means there will be no Rohit at the top of the India order, so Mayank Agarwal looks set to partner Shikhar Dhawan.

Agarwal failed to show what he is capable of when India were whitewashed by New Zealand in February.

The 29-year-old was in good touch during the IPL, though, scoring 424 runs at an average of 38.54 and making a century for Kings XI against Rajasthan Royals.

KL Rahul is likely to come in down the order, given he will take up the role of wicketkeeper-batsman.

 

WARNER TO MAKE HAY AT HAPPY HUNTING GROUND?

Australia have a formidable recent record at the SCG, winning 11 of their previous 13 ODIs at the famous venue.

They have also come out on top in all but two of their previous 16 encounters with India at the Sydney fortress.

India's last ODI victory over Australia at the venue came in January 2016 and dismissing David Warner cheaply may be key to repeating that feat.

The opener has an ODI average of 57.2 at the SCG, higher than any other player in the men's game from 10 innings or more. Warner has scored two hundreds and a half-century in his last five knocks at the venue.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Kohli is 133 runs away from becoming only the sixth man to record 12,000 in ODIs. 
- India have won 12 of their last 18 ODIs against Australia, including the previous two.
- The tourists have won five of their last seven bilateral ODI series versus Australia, including a 2-1 win in the most recent series on Australian soil early last year.
- Finch is just 17 shy of becoming the 16th Australian to score 5,000 ODI runs. He has not been dismissed for a single-figure total in any of his last 10 ODI knocks.
- Mohammed Shami (50) has taken more ODI wickets since the beginning of 2019 than any other player; Australia duo Adam Zampa and Pat Cummins (43 each) are joint-second.

When the Mumbai Indians defeated the Delhi Capitals on Tuesday’s final of the 2020 season of the Indian Premier League, it also made Kieron Pollard the player with the most T20 titles in the history of the format.

The powerfully built Trinidadian allrounder was winning his 15th title and his fifth with Mumbai, also a record for the franchise.

It puts him above compatriot Dwayne Bravo, who has 14, Shoaib Malik with 12, Rohit Sharma, Mumbai’s captain Rohit Sharma with 10 and Lasith Malinga, who has nine titles.

Following Tuesday’s comfortable five-wicket victory over the Capitals, Pollard expressed his joy at winning yet another title but confesses that the path to winning the many trophies he has won has never been easy.

“It's a great feeling. I've been here 11 years, fifth trophy,” said Pollard who won a record fourth Caribbean Premier League title with the Trinbago Knight Riders in September.

“No one sees the planning and training, it's pressure playing for a franchise like this. The amount of trophies, the amount of work, the amount of players who go on to play for their countries, I think we'll have to say so [that this is the best T20 franchise].”

Pollard praised the owners and management of the franchise and aimed a friendly dig at his fellow Trinidadian, who plays for the Chennai Super Kings.

“Dwayne Bravo you're behind now and I'm in front of you, just had to say it on camera.”

From all indications, he seems to relish the pressure that comes with a final. He made reference to this prior to Tuesday's final in a video on Mumbai's Twitter page.

“The name of the game is pressure, in a final. Everyone takes that pressure. You want to win and not commit a mistake, but at the end of the day, you have to try to take the finals as a normal game. Just go out there, enjoy yourself and the atmosphere,” Pollard said.

“Obviously, no crowds in this final, but enjoy the magnitude of it. It is an IPL final, it’s the biggest thing after the World Cup final,. 

Pollard will now head to New Zealand where he will represent the West Indies in their three-match T20 season set to begin on November 27.

Rohit Sharma has not been included in any of India's squads for the tour to Australia due to injury, joining Ishant Sharma on the sidelines.

Batsman Rohit suffered a hamstring injury during the ongoing Indian Premier League season, and it is unclear if he will play again in the 2020 edition for Mumbai Indians.

Ishant, meanwhile, has not featured at all in the IPL due to an abdominal muscle issue, though the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) added the duo will continue to be monitored.

The Test party does include uncapped paceman Mohammed Siraj, as well as left-arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav.

KL Rahul, who is vice-captain for the one-day and Twenty20 squads, is recalled for Test duty. His previous outing in the longest format was against West Indies over a year ago, though the right-handed batsman has been in superb form for King's XI Punjab in the IPL.

Wriddhiman Saha and Rishabh Pant are selected as the wicketkeepers for the four-match series, though the latter has been left out of the white-ball squads.

Virat Kohli will captain India in all three formats, with the schedule for the trip still to be officially confirmed.

The BCCI also announced that four additional bowlers – Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Kartik Tyagi, Ishan Porel and T Natarajan – will travel.

 

Test squad: Virat Kohli (captain), Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vice-captain), Hanuma Vihari, Shubman Gill, Wriddhiman Saha, Rishabh Pant, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohd. Shami, Umesh Yadav, Navdeep Saini, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Siraj.

ODI squad: Virat Kohli (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Shubman Gill, KL Rahul (vice-captain), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Mayank Agarwal, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohd. Shami, Navdeep Saini, Shardul Thakur.

T20 squad: Virat Kohli (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul (vice-captain), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Sanju Samson, Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohd. Shami, Navdeep Saini, Deepak Chahar, Varun Chakravarthy.

Quinton de Kock blasted another half-century as Mumbai Indians cruised to an eight-wicket victory over Kolkata Knight Riders to go top of the Indian Premier League. 

De Kock had earlier been left red-faced when he dropped Pat Cummins on 36 and the Australia paceman went on to make his maiden IPL half-century on Friday. 

An unbroken stand of 87 between Cummins (53 not out) and new captain Eoin Morgan (39no) got KKR up to 148-5 in Abu Dhabi. 

Rahul Chahar was the pick of the Mumbai bowlers with 2-18 and it was South Africa wicketkeeper-batsman De Kock who played the biggest hand with the bat. 

The left-hander smashed an unbeaten 78 off 44 balls to get the defending champions home with 19 balls to spare, sealing a sixth win in eight games. 

De Kock has now made three half-centuries in his last four innings, although he did have a bit of fortune when Varun Chakravarthy missed a tough chance to send him on his way for 20. 

Rohit Sharma made a slow 35 by his usual standards in an opening partnership of 94, while Hardik Pandya weighed in with a brisk 21 not out. 

Victory for Mumbai moves them to the summit, level on points with Delhi Capitals, while the Knight Riders are fourth. 

 

CHAHAR DOUBLE STRIKE JOLTS KKR AT START OF MORGAN REIGN

Kolkata announced on the day of the game that Dinesh Karthik had handed over the captaincy to England's white-ball skipper Morgan. 

Morgan opted to bat after winning the toss and might have been wondering if that was the right call when his side were 61-5 after Jasprit Bumrah removed Andre Russell. 

The excellent Chahar had Shubman Gill caught at long-on and Karthik played the next ball on, so it was left for Morgan and Cummins to come to the rescue. 

Cummins and Morgan both struck two sixes as they produced a much-needed late flurry of runs, Nathan Coulter-Nile (1-51) proving to be particularly expensive.

DE KOCK STARS IN RUN CHASE 

The destructive De Kock produced another devastating exhibition of clean striking, moving into the top 10 in the list of the highest run-scorers in the 2020 edition of the IPL. 

He was the chief aggressor in the opening partnership with Rohit, who faced 36 deliveries. 

De Kock struck two of his three maximums in a costly seventh over from Prasidh Krishna, also hitting nine fours in another high-quality knock. 

The 27-year-old has 269 runs in the tournament at an average of 38.42 and, on this evidence, there may be plenty more to come. 

Rohit Sharma passed 5,000 runs in the Indian Premier League as Mumbai Indians returned to winning ways in style, recording a 48-run victory over Kings XI Punjab in Abu Dhabi. 

India batsman Rohit surpassed the milestone with the very first ball he faced, clipping a wide outswinger from Mohammed Shami through the cover region. 

It set the tone for a sublime innings, with the right-hander reaching 70 off 45 balls, striking eight boundaries and three sixes. 

 A late flurry from Kieron Pollard (47), set Kings XI a target of 192 – a total they never threatened to reach despite the efforts of Nicholas Pooran, who scored 44 on the eve of his 25th birthday. 

Mumbai – who lost their last match following a super over – saw Quinton de Kock depart for a duck from the fifth delivery of the game. 

Rohit swiftly set about taking the initiative, and struck two fours from the second over, before he successfully overturned a leg before wicket decision after the technology deemed Mohammed Shami's delivery was heading down the leg side. 

When Pollard was positive from the outset on his arrival at the crease, Rohit stepped up, hitting 21 off a James Neesham over, while four sixes in the 20th helped the Indians reach 191-4. 

Kings XI began speedily enough in response, yet the first of two Jasprit Bumrah wickets saw Mayank Agarwal removed for 25 in the fifth over. 

Pooran was soon at the crease and tallied three fours and two maximums, although captain and opener KL Rahul could not stick around to provide a steady partner, departing for 17. 

Glenn Maxwell helped Pooran take the chasing side past 100, but Kings XI's star man perished when James Pattinson found his outside edge, a huge wicket that left the West Indian’s team-mates with too much to do as three were out for single figures. 

ROHIT PUNISHES NEESHAM 

It was a torrid day with the ball for Neesham, who finished with figures of 0-52 from four overs. 

Neesham attempted successive yorkers in the costly 16th over, with Rohit dispatching both of them to the boundary, yet things got worse when the Mumbai skipper pulled the next delivery over square for six, with the fifth ball of the over also heading over the ropes. 

NO PARTY FOR POORAN 

It looked for a brief time as though Pooran might be about to have a birthday to remember as he threatened a fightback. 

He did the heavy lifting in partnerships of 21 with Rahul and then 41 with Maxwell, yet his departure in the 14th over sparked a collapse as those further down the order failed to pack the same punch. 

Chennai Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming hopes to draw strength from a nightmare build-up to the IPL season ahead of Saturday's opener against Mumbai Indians.

Fleming is without Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh, who opted out of the tournament that has been moved to the UAE amid the on-going effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ruturaj Gaikwad and Deepak Chahar also tested positive for COVID-19, along with several members of support staff, while a number of Fleming's first-choice personnel - the likes of Shane Watson, MS Dhoni and Ambati Rayudu - are short of competitive action due to the wider realities of 2020.

"It has been different, and that's been part of the challenge - understanding the unknown," Fleming said.

"We didn't get off to a great start, with some positive COVID-19 cases, but I think we dealt with it very well.

"We were calm around our approach, looked after the players and staff very well, and the rest of the players were calm in the hotel room. There was a bit of anxiety wanting to get out and train.

"It is what it is, and the players dealt with it very well. In hindsight, the amount of pre-season training that we've done up to now, and the extra few days in the room, was probably a blessing."

Mumbai's reasons for trepidation are more historically based.

The last time the IPL was moved to the UAE in 2014, they lost each of their five games.

"We didn't have a great experience last time yes, but it's a different team now," skipper Rohit Sharma said.

"The thought process is different. Six years is a lot of time. Like I said, it's about understanding pitches and conditions, that is crucial so we are putting a lot of emphasis on that.

"Eventually the pitches will play a big part, so understanding and adapting quickly is important. But yes, the past won't play any part - it was just myself, Kieron Pollard and Jasprit Bumrah from that team.

"I think Bumrah played just one game. So the team is different, the staff is different [and] thought process is different. Looking forward to a great IPL."

The Indian Premier League returns this weekend, with the creme de la creme of the sport in the United Arab Emirates for the marquee Twenty20 competition of franchise cricket.

Mumbai Indians, the defending champions, face Chennai Super Kings in Saturday's curtain-raiser, which is a repeat of the 2019 final.

Here, we take a look at the players who should light up the tournament.

 

VIRAT KOHLI (Royal Challengers Bangalore)

No man has more IPL runs than RCB captain Kohli, whose 5,412 have been accrued at an average of 37.84 across his 117 matches.

Key Stat: India superstar Kohli is the only batsman in the history of T20 internationals to average more than 50 (50.80) among those with a minimum of 20 innings.

MS DHONI (Chennai Super Kings)

He may have retired from international duty, but Chennai skipper Dhoni is not calling time on his IPL career just yet. You feel the 'finisher' will want to end with a flourish.

Key Stat: Dhoni has made the most runs as a captain (4,142) among the eight skippers. Rajasthan Royals captain Steve Smith is the only man to have a better win percentage (65.5 per cent) than Dhoni's 59.8 per cent too.

JASPRIT BUMRAH (Mumbai Indians)

Player of the match in the 2019 final, it was Bumrah's 2-14 that proved pivotal to Mumbai's success. The seamer has mastered the art of death bowling.

Key stat: No one bowled more balls at the death (overs 17-20) than Bumrah's 172 deliveries in 2019. He had an economy of just 7.7 during that period. 

ANDRE RUSSELL (Kolkata Knight Riders)

West Indian all-rounder Russell is a box office draw for Kolkata Knight Riders having averaged 56.7 with the bat last year.

Key stat: Russell made 510 runs in 2019, of which 85.5 per cent were made from boundaries. That was the biggest percentage for those to have made at least 20 runs.

ROHIT SHARMA (Mumbai Indians)

A record four-time winner of the IPL as Mumbai captain, Rohit made 52 fours last season - the most of his 12-year IPL career.

Key stat: Rohit is 102 runs away from becoming the third batsman to reach 5,000 IPL runs after Kohli and Suresh Raina.

DAVID WARNER (Sunrisers Hyderabad)

Last season Warner won the Orange Cap - awarded to the IPL's leading run-scorer - for a record third time after amassing 692 runs, 99 more than anyone else in the tournament.

Key stat: Warner has now accumulated at least 600 runs in three separate campaigns. Chris Gayle (also three) is the only other batsman to have done so more than once.

DEEPAK CHAHAR (Chennai Super Kings)

Chahar had a breakthrough campaign with the Super Kings last year, claiming 22 wickets - a figure only South African duo Imran Tahir and Kagiso Rabada could better.

Key stat: The seamer bowled 64.3 overs in 2019 and 49 per cent of his deliveries were dot balls - the highest figure among those who bowled at least 10 overs.

KAGISO RABADA (Delhi Capitals)

The Proteas quick made his mark in the IPL last season when he took 25 wickets in the Capitals' run to the semi-finals.

Key stat: Of those who bowled at least 10 overs, Rabada had the best average (14.72) while he and international team-mate Tahir were the only two bowlers to have more than one four-wicket haul.

A panel of experts has decided that a pairing of Christopher Henry Gayle and David Warner would represent the best openers the T20 game has ever seen.

According to Zaheer Clarke, statistician, Chris Taylor, cricket umpire and commentator and noted cricket commentator and journalist, Fazeer Mohammed, Gayle’s body of work over the course of his career in the T20 game made him the first name on any list of all-time greats in the format.

The panel were picking from a final six after 13 shortlisted players were whittled down on Wednesday.

The six who made the final were Gayle, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Aaron Finch, David Warner, and Brendon McCullum.

While Gayle was a shoo-in on all the panellists books, there was a little difficulty in picking who would partner him.

According to Fazeer Mohammed, Finch would make a good partner for the big left hander, while Taylor and Clarke felt that Warner would do more damage up front with the Universe Boss.

The panel’s decision counts for 40% of the overall vote on who makes the SportsMax Ultimate XI, while the SportsMax Zone, like an online voting audience, has a 30% stake in proceedings.

This means there are still some decisions to be made with Gayle, by virtue of bagging votes from the Zone and the panel being selected as one of two Ultimate XI T20 openers.

The uncertainty about who will make up the other part of the pairing lies in the fact that the SportsMax Zone did not agree with the panel on who should partner Gayle, instead going with India’s Sharma.

Gayle stands head and shoulders over every batsman to ever play the T20 game with 13,296 runs behind his name at a healthy average of 38.20 from 404 games. Gayle strikes at an incredible 146.94 and has a whopping 22 centuries and 82 half-centuries in the format.

Sharma, who the Zone has picked, from 328 games has 8,642 runs at an average of 32.24 and has scored six centuries and 60 half-centuries.

Warner has not played as many games as the two, but enjoys a 142.20 strike rate from his 280 games, and has scored 9,218 runs, inclusive of eight centuries and 75 half-centuries already.

The choice is tough and may come down to who you like, as Lance Whittaker says, he is a Sharma fan.

To make your choice regarding who makes the SportsMax Ultimate XI, click here. Maybe like George Davis, you think the Zone is crazy for not picking Warner. If you want to learn more about the players, you can click here.

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