The India auditions are done, but Rishabh Pant refuses to go away from the spotlight.
He blasted 78 not out off 27 balls, the joint third-fastest IPL half-century, to set the tournament alight for Delhi Capitals.
Also crucial for Delhi was Colin Ingram's 43 that gave the innings momentum in the first place after the top order sputtered. This meant, Shreyas Iyer celebrated an away win at his home ground as Delhi defended their mammoth 213 for 6 in style.
Mumbai Indians, meanwhile, haven't won a season-opening game since 2012. They will now travel to Bengaluru with not just questions to address, but also concerns over Jasprit Bumrah's shoulder.
McClenaghan strikes, Delhi struggle
Delhi might have begun the season thinking 'there we go again' when Prithvi Shaw and Iyer were out to Mitchell McClenaghan inside the fourth over. Shikhar Dhawan pottered to 13 off 16 balls in the first six overs. This allowed Rohit Sharma to use up three overs of debutant Rasikh Salam by the seventh over.
Although nervous, the 17-year-old from Jammu & Kashmir impressed with his skiddy pace and late away movement. At that stage, after seven overs, Delhi were 49 for 2, with ESPNcricinfo's Forecaster pegging Delhi's final total at 144. The innings needed impetus.
Ingram takes on the Pandyas
A stable base, strong bottom hand and expert picking of lengths makes Ingram lethal. His re-entry into the IPL after eight years immediately injected momentum to the innings. He announced himself off his 13th delivery when he muscled a short Hardik Pandya delivery deep into the first tier on the leg side.
In the 11th over, he didn't spare Krunal Pandya, who repeatedly tried to fire the ball full, trying to angle the ball away from the sweeping arc. Ingram was a step ahead, using the gaps in the off side to drill the ball in the arc between point and long-off. The over went for three fours, which came on the back of Dhawan playing a delicious uppercut off McClenaghan. The wheels were turning. From 70 for 2 in nine, Delhi were now 95 for 2 in 11.
Mumbai had no spinner to take the ball away from the left-handers. This forced Rohit to turn to Ben Cutting to cover for Krunal's quota. But he too was scooped disdainfully. Ingram would make 47 off 32, and his 83-run stand with Dhawan led a superb revival.
Virat Kohli has emphatically stated that the IPL wouldn't impact World Cup selection, but Pant could give the team management its biggest headache yet. He was held back but it didn't cost Delhi. He whipped, swept, flicked, pulled and danced his way to sixes, peppering the second tiers of different parts of the ground, although the arc between deep square-leg and long-leg was his favourite.
His first five deliveries yielded just one run, but the next 10 brought him 40. He'd hit five fours and three sixes in the interim; like Ingram, Pant too took a liking for Hardik, hitting him for two sixes and a four in the 16th to rev up. The decision to test him with short balls, particularly, fell flat. Short on middle: pulled, short outside off: slapped over long-off. Short further away: fetched and swatted over deep midwicket. This was Pant unleashed. Delhi smashed 99 off the last six overs.
Mumbai's Powerplay failure
Six games in 2017 yielded no wickets for Ishant Sharma. He went unsold subsequently in 2018, and was among the last buys for Delhi in 2019. His first IPL scalp in three years was Rohit, who top-edged a scoop to fine leg in the fourth over. In his next over, Ishant had the dangerous Quinton de Kock holing out at fine leg for a 16-ball 27. In the same over, Suryakumar Yadav was brilliantly run out by Iyer. Mumbai sputtered to 46 for 3 in the first six.
Yuvraj sparkles but not enough
Yuvraj Singh walloped Axar Patel's darts to offset a slow start that had him at 8 off 10 at one stage, struggling particularly against the short ball. But Kieron Pollard and Hardik, who chipped a return catch for a second-ball duck, fell within three balls of each other to put pressure on him. Krunal walked out at No. 7 in the 12th over and eased some of it, despite the asking rate spiraling to 13 an over by then. Delhi briefly lost the plot here, and Krunal made a mockery of their lengths by using his crease to muscle 32 off 15.
But when he got out, Mumbai needed 80 off 30. Essentially, Yuvraj or Cutting had to do to Delhi what Andre Russell did to Sunrisers Hyderabad. Yuvraj by then had moved to 47 off 29, and a half-century duly arrived off a thick outside edge, but the game was beyond Mumbai by then, with Delhi closing out the game through Kagiso Rabada and Trent Boult.