If the Indian Premier League has taught us one thing, it’s that this summer’s World Cup is going to be full of drama, big hitting and incredible feats in the field.
Mumbai Indians were crowned IPL champions on Sunday, but what else can we take from the 20-over franchise competition heading into the World Cup, which begins on 30 May at The Oval?
Brilliant Bairstow and his Warner bromance
England wicketkeeper-batsman Jonny Bairstow turned out to be one of the big IPL success stories and, having been bought for just under £250,000, proved to be something of a bargain for Sunrisers Hyderabad.
The 29-year-old smashed 445 runs in 10 outings, including the 2019 edition’s highest score of 114 off just 56 balls. He reached his ton off 52 balls in what was also the fastest century.
Bairstow was also one half of an unlikely bromance with Australian opener David Warner, with the pair hitting it off in spectacular fashion at the top of the batting order.
They passed the 100-run partnership mark in their first three outings and, in the last of those against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), set a new IPL record of 185 for an opening stand.
Speaking about Warner in an interview with the Telegraph, Bairstow said: “[Warner] was a very good team-mate, he passed on a lot of knowledge about local bowlers, gameplans, pitches, everything. He was excellent.
“We spent five weeks together having dinner and coffees. It changes things but it will still be England versus Australia [this summer].”
What about the other England players?
Moeen Ali, Jos Buttler, Joe Denly and Ben Stokes were the other England players from the hosts’ preliminary World Cup squad who appeared in the IPL.
Rajasthan Royals opener Buttler endured a controversial start to the tournament after being the victim of a ‘Mankad’ by Ravichandran Ashwin.
Buttler seemed to be temporarily affected by it with follow-up scores of five and six but bounced back to hit 311 runs from eight innings, including three half-centuries – and all at a strike-rate of 151.70.
The explosive 28-year-old also hit the equal highest number of runs off a single over by smashing 28, which included two sixes and four boundaries, against the Mumbai Indians.
Moeen initially struggled for Royal Challengers Bangalore, who finished bottom of the eight-team table despite having the likes of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers in their line-up.
Moeen was moved up and down the batting order as RCB lost their first six matches and he scored just 74 runs in the process.
However, in his final four knocks, he scored 146 runs, including two half-centuries.
Bowling-wise, the England spinner returned an impressive economy rate of 6.76 – the same as the much-vaunted Jofra Archer.
Denly cannot be judged on his one outing for Kolkata Knight Riders in which he was bowled for a duck when he opened.
Stokes, however, is a different story…
Memo to Eoin Morgan: Don’t bowl Stokes in the final over!
Stokes became the IPL’s most expensive foreign player when the now-defunct Rising Pune Supergiant bought him for £1.7m in 2017. Then he helped them to the final but he has been disappointing in his past two seasons for the Rajasthan Royals.
In nine matches in the 2019 edition, he scored just 123 runs, including a highest score of 46, and he endured another final-over nightmare on the bowling front.
Stokes, remember, was smashed for four sixes off his first four balls by Carlos Brathwaite in the last over of the World Twenty20 final against the West Indies, who needed 19 for victory, at Eden Gardens in India in 2016.
He might have hoped to partly banish those memories when he was given the ball with Chennai Super Kings needing 18 off the final over against the Royals in Jaipur.
Instead, it was another horror show as he conceded 21 runs in an over in which he gave away a free hit and bowled a wide.
In his farewell speech to his team-mates prior to joining up with England, Stokes admitted his performances had not “been up to the standards I have set”.
Is Jofra Archer as good as the hype?
There has been plenty of attention on Barbados-born paceman Archer, who qualified to play for England earlier this year after a change in residency rules.
Archer was not named in England’s provisional World Cup squad but has played for Morgan’s side in pre-tournament games and, having impressed in his initial outings, could still make the final cut.
During the IPL, Archer was a rare positive for a struggling Rajasthan side.
Known for his express pace, he reached a top speed of 94.8mph, although South Africa fast bowler Kagiso Rabada was the quickest IPL bowler this year – attaining 95.8mph.
Archer might have hoped for more than 11 wickets from his 11 outings but he did keep the runs down with an economy of 6.76.
When asked if Archer should make the World Cup squad last week, former England captain Andrew Flintoff said: “He’s got to be in. Who I would get rid of? Anyone. He’s brilliant.”
Are Smith and Warner in form for the Aussies after ban?
There will be plenty of eyes on batsmen Steve Smith and Warner following their return to the Australian squad after 12-month bans for their involvement in the ball-tampering controversy against South Africa in March 2018.
If the IPL is anything to go by, Warner looks like he is ready to make up for lost time.
He finished the tournament as the highest runscorer, with 692 runs from 12 innings and, in the process, hit one ton and eight half-centuries at a strike-rate of 143.86.
“It has been another phenomenal IPL for David Warner,” said former Australia all-rounder and Sunrisers coach Tom Moody.
“It takes more than skill to emerge from the recent past – it shows great character, resilience and determination to rise as he has.”
Smith did not capture as many headlines but still managed a respectable 319 from 10 innings at a strike-rate of 116.
He took over the captaincy of the Royals after a poor run under Ajinkya Rahane and led the team to three wins from five matches.
Don’t forget about Dre
A player who encapsulates the destructive hitting and Bollywood extravagance of the IPL is West Indies all-rounder Andre Russell.
There is rarely a lost cause with him at the crease and he lit up the tournament with 52 sixes from the 249 balls he faced in 13 innings.
In comparison, the next most prolific six-hitter was Russell’s fellow Windies player Chris Gayle with 34.
Russell also had the highest strike-rate 204.81 in the tournament, while he, along with Buttler, hit the equal highest runs off a single over with a hefty 28 against RCB.
The form of the 31-year-old, who completed a one-year anti-doping whereabouts ban in January 2018, and the fact Gayle looks as good as ever, means World T20 champions Windies will be a team to watch in the 50-over version.
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