The first week of matches in the 2016 Indian Premier League season have witnessed one dominant trend: blow-out victories by chasing teams. Of the opening seven matches in the ninth edition of cricket’s most celebrated domestic Twenty20 competition, only one has gone to the final over and only one has been won by the team batting first.
There have also been signs that the newcomers to the IPL can more than hold their own. The season started with Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s Rising Pune Supergiants crushing defending champions Mumbai Indians by nine wickets with 32 balls to spare. The Gujarat Lions made a similarly impressive start, knocking off Kings XI Punjab in Mohali, before then knocking off Supergiants to take an early lead in the standings.
There remains an awful long way to go, however, and there is plenty of chance for teams to kick start their season over the next two days, with all eight sides in action this weekend.
Here’s what’s in store.
Sunrisers Hyderabad vs. Kolkata Knight Riders (Saturday, April 16, 6:30 a.m. EDT)
The first afternoon game of the season will take part in Hyderabad, where Sunrisers will be aiming to get off the mark after a heavy loss in their opening match against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Tuesday. That is not Sunrisers’ only concern, with rejuvenated veteran bowler Ashish Nehra and New Zealand captain Kane Williamson joining Yuvraj Singh on the injury list. After missing out on the playoffs for the last two years, Sunrisers will be desperate to avoid falling into an early hole. Kolkata Knight Riders are also coming into the contest after a loss, albeit a narrow one against holders Mumbai Indians on Wednesday. As they seek a second win, Knight Riders will be boosted by the availability of spinner Sunil Narine.
Mumbai Indians vs. Gujarat Lions (Saturday, April 16, 10:30 a.m. EDT)
After tasting an opening defeat against Rising Pune Supergiants, 2015 champions Mumbai Indians will be keen to avoid going down to the other newcomer to the IPL. Mumbai recovered to get off the mark thanks to 84 from captain Rohit Sharma and a quick-fire 41 from Jos Buttler against Knight Riders, and will be aided on Saturday by the arrival of big-hitting Martin Guptill to replace the injured Lendl Simmons. Gujarat Lions, though, promise to provide a significant challenge to their bowling attack. Aaron Finch and Brendon McCullum are in fine form at the top of the order and will be aiming to extend Lions’ 100 percent start to the IPL.
Kings XI Punjab vs. Rising Pune Supergiants (Sunday, April 17, 6:30 a.m. EDT)
Bottom of the table in 2015 and a playoff team just once in the last seven years, already Kings XI Punjab are staring at another difficult season. Of the six teams to have played two games so far, Kings XI are the only one to have lost both. And both have been comprehensive defeats. Last time out on Friday they managed to score just 111 from their 20 overs, which Delhi Daredevils knocked off with ease. They now take on a Supergiants team who will be smarting from defeat against Gujarat Lions, when their fine start with the bat was halted and their bowlers fell a long way short of defending a total of 163.
Royal Challengers Bangalore vs. Delhi Daredevils (Sunday, April 17, 10:30 a.m. EDT)
Looking to finally deliver on their immense batting talent, Royal Challengers Bangalore could hardly have wished for a better start. While Chris Gayle was sent back after just four balls against Sunrisers Hyderabad, Royal Challengers’ other two stars delivered as captain Virat Kohli racked up 75 and AB de Villiers fired 82 from just 42 balls in a massive 45-run victory. Without a title to their name, Royal Challengers will take some stopping if their top-order batsman can remain in such form. Delhi Daredevils should at least be full of confidence as they embark on the challenge. In his 100th IPL match, Ahmit Mishra took four wickets against Kings XI on Friday, before Quinton de Kock helped his team knock off the 112 required with a massive 39 balls remaining.
TV coverage: Viewers in the USA can watch the 2016 IPL on ESPN pay per view through DISH, Verizon FiOS, Hotwire Communications, Mediacom and RCN.
Live stream: Live streaming coverage will be available via a subscription to ESPN’s Cricket Pass.