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Page last updated at 17:27 GMT, Friday, 18 April 2008 18:27 UK

McCullum fireworks mark IPL's bow

Brendon McCullum
McCullum hit 13 sixes in an exhilarating display of batting

The Indian Premier League, with its potential to transform world cricket, began on Friday with a spectacular floodlit match in Bangalore.

The sell-out crowd of 55,000 was treated to a remarkable innings from New Zealand's Brendon McCullum.

Playing for the Kolkata Knight Riders he hit 158 not out, the highest ever individual Twenty20 score, as his side romped to a 140-run win.

The cricket was preceded by a lavish opening ceremony at the ground.

Acrobats, singers and cheerleaders from the Washington Redskins performed to a backdrop of some impressive fireworks.

But the home team, the Bangalore Royal Challengers, were soundly beaten, and there was one other sour note.

A row about the restrictions placed on international news agencies Reuters, AP and AFP led to all three boycotting coverage.

It meant websites and newspapers were unable to show photos from either the match or the opening ceremony.

When the action started some of the smartest kits ever seen in cricket were on show.

If a supporter of the Punjab franchise celebrates wildly when Lee shatters Tendulkar's stumps in Mumbai for a duck then the IPL will have broken new territory

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew

The Knight Riders, part-owned by Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan, wore black with gold trim, and gold helmets, pads and gloves.

The home team, led by former India captain Rahul Dravid, wore red, yellow and orange.

Two hours before the match was due to start, music began pumping out of giant speakers at the M Chinnaswammy Stadium.

Long queues gathered outside, although as most of the stands were already full many fans had to be turned away.

Those lucky enough to get into the ground cheered as the eight captains, all smartly dressed in suits, were introduced to them.

Board of Control for Cricket in India chairman Sharad Pawar said: "This is an historic day for world cricket.

"The world is watching what is happening in Bangalore.

Behind the scenes ahead of the first game

"In 44 days, 123 Indian players and 73 overseas players are going to play 59 matches in eight different places.

"I am confident there is an opportunity for the world's senior players to teach the new young players which will build a strong future team for India."

Acting International Cricket Council president Ray Mali thanked the Bangalore organisers and said cricket "was being taken to the next level".

The contests between the league's eight teams will feature nearly all of the top names in the game, and they will be closely watched in England, the birthplace of Twenty20 cricket.

The England and Wales Cricket Board is in talks with an American billionaire to set up its own version of the IPL, but on Friday the attention was squarely on India.

606: DEBATE
Slinkywizard

With the final in Mumbai on 1 June, fans should see some mouthwatering cricket with the likes of Sachin Tendulkar (Mumbai), Ricky Ponting (Kolkata) and Matthew Hayden (Chennai) facing the bowling of Brett Lee (Punjab), Shane Warne (Rajasthan) and Glenn McGrath (Delhi).

The stars will get around 100,000 a week during the tournament, putting them on similar pay to the world's top footballers, albeit for a limited period.

It will also be a new experience for the fans.

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew said: "The success or failure of the IPL lies with the Indian supporters who are fanatical about cricket but only until now about the national team.

"If a supporter of the Punjab franchise celebrates wildly when Lee shatters Tendulkar's stumps in Mumbai for a duck then the IPL will have broken new territory."

John Buchanan, Shah Rukh Khan and Sourav Ganguly
Kolkata coach John Buchanan, owner Shah Rukh Khan & captain Sourav Ganguly

It has not all been plain sailing for the IPL organisers, however.

As well as having to cope with the agency boycott, they watched a severely one-sided match on Friday, with the Royal Challengers beaten by 140 runs.

Meanwhile, star names Tendulkar, Anil Kumble and Nathan Bracken are injured and out of the opening exchanges.

The most exciting fast bowler around, South Africa's Dale Steyn, is playing domestic cricket for the Titans back home and will also miss the start.

And England's only representative, Dimitri Mascarenhas, will only be released from Hampshire duty for a fortnight some time in May.


see also
India's elite await IPL riches
18 Apr 08 |  Cricket
Indian Premier League team guide
15 Apr 08 |  Cricket
How will the IPL change cricket?
17 Apr 08 |  Cricket
IPL founder warns England stars
15 Apr 08 |  Cricket
England bosses soften IPL stance
16 Apr 08 |  Cricket
Counties in India's shadow
15 Apr 08 |  Counties
ECB chief rejects Pietersen plea
07 Apr 08 |  England


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