The Indian Premier League has confirmed two positive coronavirus cases in the Kolkata Knight Riders squad, forcing Monday's game against Royal Challengers Bangalore to be rescheduled.

Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier both tested positive for COVID-19 and are now isolating away from the squad.

The rest of the Knight Riders' group returned negative results, though a daily testing schedule has now been put in place to quickly identify any further cases that occur.

No new date for the round-robin game against the Royal Challengers has been announced.

India has seen a sharp rise in COVID numbers in the country in recent weeks, with the total number in excess of 19million since the start of the global pandemic.

However, this is the first time there have been confirmed cases within the IPL bubble. The Twenty20 tournament returned to India this year after the 2020 edition was staged in the United Arab Emirates.

"Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier were found to be positive in the third round of testing in the last four days. All other team members have tested negative for COVID -19," a statement on the IPL website read.

"Both the players have isolated themselves from the rest of the squad. The medical team is in continuous touch with the duo and are monitoring their health. Meanwhile, the Kolkata Knight Riders have now moved towards a daily testing routine to identify any other possible cases and treat them at the earliest.

"The medical team is also determining the close and casual contacts of the two positive cases during the 48 hours prior to collection of the sample that returned the positive test results.

"The BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) and the Kolkata Knight Riders prioritise the health and safety of everyone involved and all measures are being taken in that endeavour."

Kolkata sit seventh in the IPL table after two wins in seven games. They lost by seven wickets to Delhi Capitals in their most recent outing, which took place last Thursday at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad.

KL Rahul scored another magnificent half-century and Harpreet Brar tormented Royal Challengers Bangalore in a 34-run Indian Premier League win for Punjab Kings.

Captain Rahul replaced Shikhar Dhawan as the leading run-scorer in the tournament with a scintillating 91 off 57 balls, getting Kings up to 179-5 after Virat Kohli put them in.

Chris Gayle also smashed a rapid 46 from 24 balls before Rahul and Harpreet provided a late flurry at Narendra Modi Stadium on Friday.

RCB fell well short in reply with the Kings attack giving nothing away, Kohli top scoring with 35 as they could only muster 145-8 in Ahmedabad.

They never got going in the run chase and lost six wickets for 34 runs, with spinner Harpreet sparking the collapse by bowling Kohli before cleaning up Glenn Maxwell for a golden duck off the next ball in a double-wicket maiden.

Harpreet claimed outstanding figures of 3-19, while fellow tweaker Ravi Bishnoi finished with a brilliant 2-17 in a resounding victory.

Harshal Patel (31) and Kyle Jamieson (16 not out) combined for an eighth-wicket stand of 48, but the damage had been done as Kings moved up to fifth, consigning third-placed RCB to only a second defeat.

 

RCB have no answer to Rahul

Punjab skipper Rahul must wish he could play against RCB more often, as they have not managed to get him out since 2019.

The India batsman was imperious once again, bringing up his fourth half-century of the tournament off 35 balls after Gayle had taken 20 off a Jamieson over and struck Yuzvendra Chahal for two sixes in the next before gloving a Daniel Sams delivery behind.

Harshal, the leading wicket-taker in the tournament, went for 53 runs off his four wicket-less overs - the last of the innings costing 22 as Rahul and Harpreet (25 not out from 17) cut loose.

 

Harp calls the tune

Riley Meredith struck an early blow by removing Devdutt Padikkal's off stump before the Kings spinners came to the fore.

RCB were struggling on 36-1 at the end of the powerplay and were well behind the run rate when Kohli came down the track to Harpreet but lost his off stump.

Harpreet was on a hat-trick after bamboozling Maxwell with a peach of a delivery that clicked his off stump. It was pretty much game over when the same bowler had AB de Villiers caught at extra cover by Rahul, with Rajat Patidar soon following for 31.

Australia internationals Kane Richardson and Adam Zampa are returning home from the Indian Premier League, while Ravichandran Ashwin has announced he is taking a break from the tournament.

Fast bowler Richardson played once in the 2021 edition, taking 1-29 from three overs in Bangalore's 10-wicket win over Rajasthan Royals on April 22.

Leg-spinner Zampa, however, did not feature for the Royal Challengers, who confirmed the departure of the duo for personal reasons.

"Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson are returning to Australia for personal reasons and will be unavailable for the remainder of #IPL2021. Royal Challengers Bangalore management respects their decision and offers them complete support," a statement on Twitter read.

Andrew Tye had become the first Australian to depart the IPL bubble on Sunday, a decision made by the Rajasthan Royals fast bowler over concerns about flights home amid a rise in COVID-19 cases in India.

The country has been setting global records for daily figures, with over 17million confirmed cases in total during the pandemic.

"I just thought I should try and get on the front foot and get home before I got locked out of the country," Tye told radio station SEN while in Doha awaiting to complete his journey to Australia.

"There's definitely concerns. A lot of guys have been in touch once they've realised I was leaving. Some of the guys are very interested in what route I took home and how I approached it."

A three-day snap lockdown was placed on the Perth and Peel areas of Western Australia last week amid concerns over coronavirus spreading within communities.

Ashwin, meanwhile, is leaving the Delhi Capitals squad to focus on helping his family during the coronavirus crisis.

"I would be taking a break from this year's IPL from tomorrow," he tweeted on Sunday. "My family and extended family are putting up a fight against COVID-19 and I want to support them during these tough times. I expect to return to play if things go in the right direction. Thank you."

Ashwin has taken one wicket and posted an economy rate of 7.73 runs per over in his five outings for the Capitals, who defeated Sunrisers Hyderabad on Sunday to make it four wins in five outings.

Ravindra Jadeja produced an utterly remarkable all-round performance as Chennai Super Kings extinguished Royal Challengers Bangalore's 100 per cent record with a thumping 69-run Indian Premier League victory.

Bangalore's attack combined to shackle Chennai to reasonable effect until Jadeja – dropped on nought by Dan Christian – laid waste to the final over of the innings from Harshal Patel (3-51), taking advantage of a no ball to bludgeon 37 and finish on 62 not out in a total of 191-4.

The Royal Challengers will still have harboured high hopes after Devdutt Padikkal and skipper Virat Kohli chased down 178 without loss against Rajasthan Royals last time out, but there was to be no repeat of those heroics as they staggered to 122-9, Jadeja starring with 3-13 and a run out.

Faf du Plessis scored 50 for Chennai and combined in an opening stand of 74 with Ruturaj Gaikwad (33) to lay a solid foundation, although Kohli cajoled his attack in typical fashion to keep the Super Kings on a leash, with Harshal to the fore.

The right-armer's outing unravelled in spectacular fashion, though, seeing a length ball and a missed yorker disappear before over-stepping as Jadeja smoked him over midwicket.

The additional delivery was similarly dispatched by the India all-rounder to bring up a 25-ball fifty, before a drop at extra cover allowed Jadeja to swipe a full toss beyond long-on and score four more through square leg to complete the humiliation.

Buoyed by his majestic century last time out, Padikkal went briskly about his work, although he pulled Shardul Thakur to Suresh Raina to depart for 34.

Kohli had already edged Sam Curran behind by that point and Jadeja ensured there was no way back for RCB. He had Washington Sundar caught at long-on from the second ball of his spell, while running out Christian in between bowling Glenn Maxwell and AB de Villiers showed everything the slow left-armer touched turned to gold.

Veteran leg-spinner Imran Tahir took 2-16 and ran out Kyle Jamieson for 16 as Bangalore fell well short and Chennai went top of the table.

Record-equalling Ravi enjoys a performance to savour

Jadeja's merciless flogging of Harshal equalled the record for runs scored in a single IPL over – Chris Gayle having taken Prasanth Parameswaran of the now defunct Kochi Tuskers Kerala for 37 when in RCB colours back in 2011. Scott Styris' 38 at James Fuller's expense for Sussex against Gloucestershire in 2012 remains the all-time T20 record.

Harsh on Harshal

If ever anyone had due cause to lament T20 as a batsman's game, it was poor old Harshal. For three overs, he bowled beautifully and approached that fateful final set of six with figures of 3-14. Raina and Du Plessis departed in successive balls to leave him on a hat-trick, Harshal's off-cutters proving a tough code to crack until Jadeja explosively intervened.

Devdutt Padikkal made a magnificent century and Virat Kohli became the first player to reach 6,000 Indian Premier League runs as Royal Challengers Bangalore thrashed Rajasthan Royals by 10 wickets.

RCB made it four wins out of four to go top of the table courtesy of a magnificent run chase from their openers at Wankhede Stadium on Thursday.

The second-bottom Royals posted 177-9 in Mumbai following a poor start to their innings after Kohli put them in, Shivam Dube top-scoring with 46 and Rahul Tewatia making 40.

Mohammed Siraj was the pick of the RCB bowlers with figures of 3-27, while Harshal Patel claimed 3-47.

The imperious Padikkal and Kohli made light work of chasing down their target in only 16.3 overs, dishing out some brutal treatment in a sublime stand.

Padikkal made his highest IPL total with a sensational 101 not out from only 52 balls and Kohli was unbeaten on a classy 72 from 47 deliveries when RCB reached their victory target.

Big-money signing Chris Morris was among the Royals bowlers to suffer, going for 38 from three overs, while Shreyas Gopal (0-35) also struggled and Tewatia's two overs cost 23 runs.

A dominant win for RCB puts them two points clear at the summit in what has been a dream start to the tournament for Kohli's side.


Siraj strikes big early blows

India seamer Siraj struck two huge early blows as the Royals were reduced to 18-3 in the fifth over after being put in by Kohli.

He rattled Jos Buttler's off stump to send the wicketkeeper-batsman on his way for only eight and saw the back of David Miller for a second-ball duck, trapping the South Africa batsman leg before with a yorker.

Washington Sundar removed the dangerous Sanju Samson straight after he had hit him for six, before clean striking and improvisation from Dube and Tewatia - who had two sixes apiece - got Rajasthan up to a more competitive score than they had been in danger of posting.

 

Padikkal and Kohli put on a show

Padikkal was the main aggressor as RCB got the run chase off to a flyer, dominating the strike as Kohli ticked over at the other end.

It took Padikkal just 28 balls to reach his half-century and Bangalore had 107 on the board just 10 overs in.

Kohli clicked through the gears as he reached yet another landmark and Paddikal brought up a maiden IPL century in the 17th over, with victory almost secure. He cleared the rope six times and hit another 11 boundaries, while Kohli struck three sixes and six fours in a batting masterclass from the openers.

Royal Challengers Bangalore continued their unbeaten start to the Indian Premier League as AB de Villiers and Glenn Maxwell powered them to victory over Kolkata Knight Riders.

The sole team yet to taste defeat in this season's competition, RCB surged to 204-4 thanks to an exceptional innings from Maxwell (78) and De Villiers' unbeaten 76.

Their respective displays contributed to three successive partnerships of over 50 runs to help RCB emphatically recover from a shaky start and post an imposing total.

KKR never found the necessary momentum to threaten that target despite a late salvo from Andre Russell (31) as RCB eased to a 38-run win.

Varun Chakravarthy removed both Virat Kohli (5) and Rajat Patidar (1) in the second over to reduce RCB to 9-2.

However, Maxwell and Devdutt Padikkal constructed a stand of 86 for the third wicket, laying the platform for De Villiers to hit the accelerator upon his arrival at the crease.

Maxwell and De Villiers combined for 53 off just 37 deliveries and, after the Australian was bounced out by compatriot Pat Cummins, the South African took command as he contributed 43 runs to a 20-ball, 56-run stand with Kyle Jamieson.

KKR saw a promising start to their reply undone as they slumped from 57-1 to 114-5 when skipper Eoin Morgan sliced Harshal Patel to opposing captain Kohli.

Russell gave them hope of a remarkable turnaround in the 17th over, in which he struck Yuzvendra Chahal for a six and three fours.

He then hit Jamieson for a maximum in the next over but that preceded the exits of Shakib Al Hasan and Cummins at the hands of the New Zealand international.

And the contest was settled by some superb death bowling from Mohammed Siraj in the penultimate over, with Russell then playing Harshal onto his stumps as a seemingly exciting finale gave way to a meek end.

Devastating De Villiers

Having been dismissed for one in RCB's last game with Sunrisers Hyderabad, De Villiers was back to his best with a 34-ball 76. His strike rate of 223.52 is the second-highest of any innings this season where the batsman has scored at least 50, behind Deepak Hooda's 28-ball 64 (228.57) for Punjab Kings against Rajasthan Royals.

Siraj stems the tide

Russell's surge was stopped firmly in its tracks by Siraj, who effectively clinched victory for RCB as his final over went for just one run, producing five successive dot balls as a frustrated Russell kept the strike while unable to find the boundary.

Royal Challengers Bangalore made it two wins from two in the Indian Premier League as Sunrisers Hyderabad's miserable record at M. A. Chidambaram Stadium continued on Wednesday.

Glenn Maxwell hit his first half-century in the tournament since 2016 as the Royal Challengers – who had beaten defending champions Mumbai Indians in their opening fixture – posted 149-8 after being put into bat.

Hyderabad appeared on course to prevail in pursuit of their target when they reached 96-1, only for the departure of captain David Warner – caught in the deep for 54 - to trigger a dramatic collapse.

Shahbaz Ahmed claimed three wickets in an over, including Jonny Bairstow and Manish Pandey with back-to-back deliveries, to completely change the complexion of a run chase that fell apart.

While Rashid Khan made 17 in a hurry the Sunrisers still finished up six runs short on 143-9, meaning they have still yet to win a completed fixture at the venue in Chennai.

Bangalore's innings had been similar too, captain Virat Kohli making 33 before his departure to Jason Holder started a mid-innings wobble, his team slipping from 91-2 to 109-6.

However, Maxwell eventually mastered the tough batting conditions, producing a late onslaught as 39 runs came from the final three overs. He was dismissed off the last delivery of the innings for 59, caught behind to give Holder final figures of 3-30.

Taking it to the Max

Maxwell endured a lean 2020 IPL campaign in the United Arab Emirates, averaging 15.42 for Kings XI Punjab as he made only 108 runs. Having been released ahead of the auction, Bangalore already appear to be getting plenty for their money.

The Australian has now scored 98 runs in his two innings for the Royal Challengers, who sit on top of the table in the embryonic stages of the season.

Chennai trouble for chasing teams

After Kolkata Knight Riders had faltered in pursuit of a 153-run target to lose narrowly against Mumbai at the ground 24 hours earlier, Sunrisers let the same situation happen when seemingly well on top.

Shahbaz (3-7) bowled only two overs, yet the second from the left-arm spinner saw Bairstow, Pandey - who struggled to up the pace as he made 38 from 39 balls - and Abdul Samad all caught off top-edged attempts to go big to the leg side.

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.

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