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Levi, Franklin lead Mumbai to opening IPL win

Published: 8:38AM Thursday April 05, 2012 Source: AAP/ONE Sport

  • James Franklin of the Mumbai Indians (Source: Getty Images)
    James Franklin of the Mumbai Indians - Source: Getty Images

South African powerhouse Richard Levi and New Zealand all-rounder James Franklin steered the Mumbai Indians to an easy eight-wicket win over defending champions Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League (IPL) opening match.

Levi, who smashed the fastest T20 century off 45 balls against New Zealand at Hamilton in February, hit a 35-ball 50 before Franklin's unbeaten 25 off 30 balls got Mumbai home.

Levi cracked three sixes and six fours on his IPL debut as Mumbai surpassed Chennai's total of 112 with 19 balls to spare.

Levi, 24, put his team on course for victory with a 69-run stand for the first wicket with Sachin Tendulkar (16) in the Twenty20 tournament opener, watched by a sizeable crowd in Chennai.

Levi was caught by Australian Doug Bollinger at long-off soon after completing his half-century with a six off West Indies seamer Dwayne Bravo.

Tendulkar retired after being struck on the fingers by a Bollinger delivery, but Franklin and Indian Ambati Rayudu (18 not out) completed the win.

Mumbai's win was set up by left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha, pacemen Kieron Pollard of the West Indies and Sri Lankan Lasith Malinga who bagged two wickets apiece to restrict Chennai to a modest total.

Suresh Raina top-scored for Chennai with a brisk 26-ball 36 on a difficult pitch.

The 76-match tournament, facing a test of its popularity, has nine teams playing each other on a home-and-away basis before the top four sides qualify for the play-offs. The final will be played on May 27.

The IPL, which began in 2008 as a high-octane mix of glamour, entertainment, rich purses for players and the excitement of slam-bang cricket, has had a difficult ride over the past four years.

It has been hit by infighting, problems with teams, criminal investigations and corruption allegations.

Fresh doubts were raised after a fall in viewership figures last year and a reported decline in sponsor interest, with the tournament coming soon after the Asia Cup in Bangladesh and India's tour of Australia.

The IPL, which features world stars playing for rich franchise owners, is being investigated by government agencies for alleged fraud and foreign exchange violations.

Its founder Lalit Modi, who was suspended from the league in 2010, is holed up in London as he faces Indian government and Board of Control for Cricket in India charges of misappropriation of funds.

As viewership declined last year, when the event started just after India won the World Cup at home, some sponsors chose to turn their back on what was once considered a safe bet for advertisers.

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