(Reuters) - The Indian Premier League’s (IPL) delayed season got off to a low-key start on Saturday with three-time winners Chennai Super Kings beating defending champions Mumbai Indians by five wickets in the first match of the eight-team tournament in Abu Dhabi.
Chennai, having restricted Mumbai to 162-9, romped home with four deliveries to spare with Ambati Rayudu (71) and Faf du Plessis (58 not out) spearheading their chase.
The world’s richest Twenty20 league was originally scheduled to be played in India from March 29 but was rescheduled in the United Arab Emirates following the COVID-19 pandemic.
The usual carnival-like atmosphere, however, was missing in the contest which took place without spectators in the stands as a safety measure.
Spilled catches and misfieldings indicated that the players, most of them featuring in competitive cricket for the first time in months, were not at their sharpest.
Put in to bat, Mumbai could not capitalise on the strong start they got from Quinton de Kock (33) and skipper Rohit Sharma (12) who fell in successive overs.
Du Plessis took two spectacular catches near the rope to send back Saurabh Tiwary (42) and Hardik Pandya (14) in the same Ravindra Jadeja over to peg back Mumbai.
Fellow South African Lungi Ngidi claimed three wickets, including that of the dangerous Kieron Pollard (18), as Mumbai managed only 41 runs in the last six overs, losing six wickets in the process.
Chennai, led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, lost both openers early but Rayudu kept their chase on track with his calculated aggression, while Du Plessis stayed put till victory was sealed.
This year’s matches will be held in bio-secure bubbles in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi in front of empty stands but organisers are hoping to allow some fans to attend during the later stages of the tournament, which will end on Nov. 10.
Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in Cooch Behar, India; Editing by Ken Ferris
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