India’s Harbhajan Singh led an inspired spin attack to help Chennai Super Kings open the 2019 Indian Premier League season with a comprehensive seven-wicket win over Royal Challengers Bangalore on Saturday.
Singh and South African leg-spinner Imran Tahir claimed three wickets each to dismiss Royal Challengers for a paltry 70, a total the defending champions achieved with 14 balls to spare in Chennai.
Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who led the Super Kings to their third IPL title after returning from an illegal gambling ban last year, elected to field first in the 12th edition of the world’s most popular Twenty20 league.
The 38-year-old Singh got Super Kings their first breakthrough after sending back opposition skipper Virat Kohli for six in the fourth over of the innings.
Singh ran through the Royal Challengers top-order with his wily off-spin, getting the big wickets of England’s Moeen Ali for nine and South African AB de Villiers, also for nine.
He was named man of the match for his efforts as Indian cricketers, past and present, couldn’t believe their eyes:
Congratulations @harbhajan_singh paji. A stellar performance. 🙌🏻🙌🏻👍🏻👍🏻
— Sandeep sharma (@sandeep25a) March 23, 2019
From comm box to man of the match. @harbhajan_singh you are a rockstar.
— Boria Majumdar (@BoriaMajumdar) March 23, 2019
Great start to the IPL for CSK. Brilliant spell from @harbhajan_singh to get Virat, AB and Moeen and it went downhill for RCB from there on. Also, many congratulations to @ImRaina for 5000 IPL runs #CSKvRCB
— Mohammad Kaif (@MohammadKaif) March 23, 2019
Form is temporary class is forever ! Singh is king @harbhajan_singh
— yuvraj singh (@YUVSTRONG12) March 23, 2019
Imran Tahir and Harbhajan Singh played the Under-19 World Cup in 1998 for Pakistan and India respectively. Played against each other in Durban in that WC
Twenty one years later the duo played together for CSK and took 6 wickets v RCB.
Top effort @ChennaiIPL #CSKvRCB #IPL2019
— Sarang Bhalerao (@bhaleraosarang) March 23, 2019
— Rahul Sharma (@ImRahulSharma3) March 23, 2019
— R P Singh रुद्र प्रताप सिंह (@rpsingh) March 23, 2019
— Deep Dasgupta (@DeepDasgupta7) March 23, 2019
Top stuff from @harbhajan_singh. This has to be the most amazing wild card performance in a long time in IPL. He has been doing commentary duties all these while with close to no match practice. Happy to see him come good for @ChennaiIPL #CSKvRCB
— Hemang Badani (@hemangkbadani) March 23, 2019
West Indies batsman Shimron Hetmyer was run out for nought and soon the Royal Challengers batting crumbled with spinners Tahir and Ravindra Jadeja, who took two wickets, combining to pack them off in 17.1 overs.
“It was a very good bowling effort by him (Harbhajan) to give us a kind of start that was very well capitalised by the other spinners,” Dhoni said after the win.
“The wicket definitely needs to be much better, even with dew it was spinning big… other teams have good spinners as well and this isn’t the pitch we are looking forward to,” Dhoni said of the pitch at Chennai’s MA Chidambaram Stadium.
Opener Parthiv Patel top-scored with 29 and remained the only batsman to cross double figures in what was the IPL’s sixth lowest total.
Chasing 71 for victory, Super Kings lost opener Shane Watson for nought after Yuzvendra Chahal got the Australian bowled with his leg-spin.
Ambati Rayudu, who made 28, and Suresh Raina, who scored 19, then put on 32 runs for the second wicket to get the chase on track.
The left-handed Raina became the first batsman in IPL history to cross the 5000-run barrier during his 21-ball stay. Raina (5004) is ahead of Kohli (4954) in the IPL batting chart.
Ali dismissed Raina and Rayudu was cleaned up by paceman Mohammed Siraj. Kedar Jadhav, on 13, and Ravindra Jadeja, on six, took the Super Kings home.
“No one wants to start like this, but it’s good to get a game like this out of the way — this early in the tournament,” said Kohli, who is yet win an IPL title.
“I thought CSK played really well, they deserved to win, but I loved to see our team fighting all the way.”
The T20 extravaganza, tentatively scheduled to end on May 12, runs close to the start of the 50-over World Cup in England and Wales on May 30.
Focus is on disgraced Australian stars Steve Smith and David Warner who are making their returns to the glitzy tournament a year after being banned for ball tampering.