Harsha Patel defies the power-hitters to put RCB on way to last-ball victory in IPL opener

Harshal Patel came back manfully from a first-over mauling to claim a five-wicket haul – including three in four balls in his final over – and was on hand to hit the winning run in a breathless last-ball finish as RCB claimed victory in the opening match of IPL 2021.

After disappearing for 15 from his first over, the seamer returned with all manner of variations to defy the power-hitters and ensure that the champions could not get anywhere near a total that looked like reaching 175 or 180 at one point. In the process he became the first bowler to bag five wickets in a match against Mumbai.

The title-holders’ 159 for nine looked inadequate – even on a relatively low-scoring ground such as Chennai – and while it still appeared so when Virat Kohli and Glenn Maxwell were at the crease, their loss in quick succession as Jasprit Bumrah and Marco Jansen bowled with tightness, intelligence and skill meant that it was left to A B de Villiers to get them close to the line if not quite over it.

As it was, he was run out coming back for a second but he had done most of the hard work in the 18th and 19th overs, at the start of which RCB still needed 34. He spanked Trent Boult for a six off the first ball of his final over and another four helped RCB grab 15 runs. And although he lost Kyle Jamieson, unselfishly sacrificing himself running to the non-striker’s end after De Villiers was committed to the single, he still managed to hit boundaries off his first and third balls of Bumrah’s last over, to ensure only seven were required off the final one.

The South African showed his confidence in Patel coming in at No 9 by taking singles when they were available but after he went, Patel and Mohamed Siraj managed to draw the scores level with a quick leg-bye before the former clipped to short fine leg for the victory run.

Mumbai, in pursuit of a third successive IPL title, had been forced to make a change at the top of the order because Quinton de Kock is quarantining – Chris Lynn replaced him – while Kohli turned to Rajat Patidar as Devdutt Padikkal, such a revelation in the UAE in his first IPL season, got extra time to recover from Covid.

Lynn soon found out that whoever you are and whatever level you’re playing at, running out your captain on your debut will not endear you to him. What’s more the 30-year-old, getting his first cap for the franchise despite having been on their books last year, was finding it difficult to justify his promotion: for the life him he could not locate the middle of the bat and it was his various edges – bottom, toe, leading – that were forced to do the majority of the work .

Strangely, then, it was the dismissal of Rohit, who had deftly struck Yuvzendra Chahal down the ground for the first six of IPL 14, that seemed to galvanise the Queenslander. Rohit came halfway down for a single as Lynn struck to extra cover but the latter aborted and left Rohit with no chance of recovery. Although his timing was still proving elusive, the Australian did at least find his inner lumberjack and stepped up his game.

A free hit in an over that ended up costing Patel 15 helped to get him chopping and carving, the cross-batted smear that resulted from the extra ball threatening to fall short of its mark until it picked up a trade wind in flight and dropped beyond the fence. He added two more bludgeoned sixes and four fours, as he put on 70 in seven overs with the far more fluid Suryakumar Yadav, before the pair fell in the space of two overs, Lynn just a single short of his fifty.

But just when the likes of Ishan Kishan, the Pandya brothers and Kieron Pollard might have feasted on the appetising hors d’ouevres laid out in front of them by the second-wicket pair, Patel spirited away their cutlery like an over-efficient waiter and the innings petered out from 135 for three to 159 for nine.

Krunal mistimed to deep midwicket, Hardik hit round a full toss and was lbw, as was Ishan as he tried to sweep a full slower ball. When he had Kieron Pollard caught in the deep from another cutter, Patel found himself on the brink of a hat-trick, which Marco Jensen, the South African beanpole brought in for his all-round talents, only survived because it was off target; he was bowled next ball, looking bereft of a plan as Patel finished with five for 27.

Kohli opted to take Washington Sundar as his opening partner in preference to Patidar, but the 21-year-old, so effective in Australia and against England in the recent Test series, scratched around unproductively, surviving a chance to Sharma at second slip in Trent Boult’s first over. He finally mishit a drive to extra cover and Patidar didn’t last long either, playing on to the New Zealand left-arm quick.

It cleared the way for the entry of Maxwell, bought at great expense for this season to reduce RCB’s reliance on Kohli and De Villiers and in his own distinct style, which included one extraordinary switch-hit six to cover off Rahul Chahar, the leg spinner, and another off Krunal Pandya, the slow left-armer, which went a full 100 metres, he set about the task.

But Kohli was trapped lbw by Bumrah, Maxwell half-swept Jansen to short fine leg and suddenly it looked as if they might be found wanting. When Shabhaz Ahmed was caught at deep square leg and Dan Christian leathered a cut into the somewhat surprised hands of Chahar at backward point, a score of 98 for two had become 122 for six with only 3.3 overs remaining.

Fortunately, De Villiers immediately stepped up a gear and added 30 in no time with Jamieson. The giant Kiwi may have only contributed four of them, but he had earlier impressed with the ball and will feel that he made a decent deposit on the repayments he owes to a team that splashed out $2.4m for his services.

Broadcast Schedule

England v Pakistan 2024 T20 series
1st T20, ENG v PAK, Headingley
22nd May
Start time: 6:30 pm BST