Match review by Siddhartha Vaidyanathan

The first match of GT20 Canada 2019 was, as you would expect, full of firsts. Defending champions Vancouver Knights began with an emphatic win. We’re here to tell you how:

The first toss:

Chris Gayle won it and burst out in laughter. He laughed so hard that he almost forgot to tell the Toronto Nationals captain Yuvraj Singh what he was about to do. He was about to start his interview with Mike Haysman when he turned around and said: “Oh, we’ll have a bowl.”

The first ball:

Was delivered by Ali Khan, who plays for USA, to Rodrigo Thomas, who plays for Canada. The ball was shortish. And shaping in. The shot, a cut, brought no runs.

The first four:

Came in the second ball. Khan to Thomas again. Short-ish. Shaping in. Thomas looking to flick, and inside-edging the ball to the left of the wicketkeeper. Racing along to fine leg for four.

The first wicket:

Arrived in the second over. Andile Phehlukwayo dug in a short ball. Brendon McCullum tried to pull it out of the ground… only to balloon it up for Rassie van der Dussen.

The first six:

Was struck in the sixth over. JJ Smit to Thomas. On a length. Smoked to midwicket, into the crowd.

The first sighting of Yuvraj Singh:

In the ninth over. When Calum MacLeod fell when going for a big shot. The new batsman took a while to come in. Players had a drink. The fielders took a break. The crowd got a bit impatient. And then… the announcer uttered the name: Yooooooovraj Singh. It didn’t take long for the Punjabi pop to fill the stands.

The first Gayle over:

It wasn’t as if he hadn’t warned us. A day before the game, Gayle announced to everyone that he was going to come on to bowl the moment Yuvraj walked into bat. True to is word, he was on in the 10th over, ready to ease himself into the bowling crease with his shades on. He conceded 9 runs – with Thomas smashing a six – but hey, a promise is a promise.

The first big drop:

Gayle drops Yuvraj in the slips. Yes, Christopher Henry Gayle – who took the catch of the tournament, no catch of the year – in last year’s GT20 had now grassed a low chance off Yuvraj. Michael Rippon, the left-arm wristspinner, had induced the edge. But no luck with the wicket.

The first bizarre dismissal:

It was the 17th over. Toronto Nationals were 103 for 3 with Heinrich Klaasen and Yuvraj setting up for a big finish. On came local boy Rizwan Cheema, jogging in to deliver his dibbly dobblies. Yuvraj went for the cut. The ball caught the edge… the wicketkeeper Tobias Visee dropped it… but ball deflected onto the stumps. Was it bowled? Was it stumped? The square-leg umpire seemed to think it was some form of dismissal. Yuvraj walked off. Replays suggested it was not out in any which way. By then Keiron Pollard had walked in and smashed his first ball for four.

The first uninhibted celebration:

Mark Montfort used to bowl offspin for his club in Guyana many years ago. Now he bowls medium-pace for Vikings CC in Toronto and has played for the Canadian team too. Montfort’s first ball of the match – in the fifth over of the chase – was left alone by Gayle. His second ball, was slammed over cover. His third ball was short of a good length. Gayle backed away, shaping up to smack the ball all the way to Guyana… but he missed. And the ball kissed the top of off. Montfort leaped up. He ran. He leaped again. He ran and ran. Till he reached three-fourth of the way to the fine-leg boundary. Who could blame him? He had got the Universe Boss, after all.

The first 50-run partnership:

which turned into…

The first 100-run partnership:

Rassie van der Dussen and Chadwick Walton. Both right-handers but as dissimilar as they come. Rassie dabbling in reverse-paddles and flat-batted swipes. Chadwick fierce on the cut and hammering anything full. Rassie taking on spin and Chadwick going after pace. Then Rassie going after pace and Chadwick slamming spin. They eased the nerves. And shut the contest.

The first use of a drop-in pitch:

Most of the players agreed that it was a good toss to win. The pitch was two-paced early on and batsmen found it hard to get much pace on the ball, some said. Geoff Lawson, the Toronto Nationals coach, admitted that his batsmen had not found it easy to adjust. He felt batting got a bit easier as the day wore on – especially with the sun baking the surface – and it was a sentiment that Chadwick Walton – the Man of the Match – echoed. These drop-in pitches will be the focus throughout the tournament. It’s the first time they are being used in Canada, after all.

The first win:

Arrived with 16 balls to spare. Mitchell McClenaghan pitched it short. Rassie pulled it over midwicket for a six. A crowd of 4,083 had been entertained. On a weekday. In the middle of the afternoon. Vancouver Knights had begun the way they ended last season – as worthy winners.