The norm for the first ball in an Indian Premier League match is for no runs to be scored from it. Before Rajasthan hosted Delhi, the first ball had been a dot ball on 435 out of 734 occasions, which is a percentage of 59.26%. So, when Ajinkya Rahane was unable to score off Ishant Sharma at the start of last night’s match, it wasn’t a surprise. It was the most probable outcome.
The least probable outcome that there has been this season was when Prithvi Shaw scored three runs to start Delhi’s successful win against Hyderabad on April 14. It was only the third time in IPL history that a game had started with a three off the first ball of the match, without the aid of extra deliveries. As it was the 725th match in IPL history, it meant that it had happened a mere 0.28% of the time before that night (the other occasions were this match and this match).
It is here that it should be admitted that the first ball of an IPL match should be divided into three categories – one for the times where it has consisted of one legal ball, another for the times that it has consisted of an illegal ball and then a legal ball, and then finally the times that it has consisted of two illegal balls and one legal ball. Out of those three categories, that last one is by far the rarest. Needing three attempts to break the game’s duck has only happened on three occasions (here, here and here). The second category includes 39 examples over the IPL’s history, leaving 693 times when the first ball of an IPL match was a legal ball first up.
If a bowler does get it right without a need for a do over because of a no ball or a wide, the least likeliest results is that five or six runs will be on the board – each has only happened once (here is the five, here is the six). The amount of times that a triple has been scored has already been covered but what about singles, doubles and fours?
Well, a single being hit from the first ball of the match (that does not need to be re-bowled for reasons of illegality as mentioned before), has happened on 152 occasions, the most recent example being KL Rahul’s single off Ishant Sharma to start the game on April 20 between Punjab and Delhi. A double has been scored on 23 occasions, the most recent example being Virat Kohli’s two off Krishnappa Gowtham to start the game on April 2. As for fours, they have been hit on 63 occasions off the first ball of the match in an IPL match, most recently in the third game of IPL11.
That, of course, doesn’t add up to 693. That’s because I have left leg byes and byes until this paragraph as they deserve one on their own. While they don’t go to the batter, they do go to the team total and the first example of such an instance in an IPL match demonstrates how important they can be. In the IPL’s inaugural match, Sourav Ganguly scrambled a leg bye off the first ball. This meant that Brendon McCullum received strike early in the match and, as that over allowed him a relative sighter before he started hitting boundaries from the second over, that leg bye was significant. A solitary bye or leg bye has happened on a dozen occasions in IPL history while four byes or leg byes has happened twice.
Just occasionally, of course, the bowling team enjoys the ultimate reward – well, perhaps not the secret of life – but a wicket to start the game. It happens about as often as a double (off one legal ball to start the innings), with Ishant Sharma’s dismissal of Joe Denly being the 22nd occasion it has happened in IPL history. Considering the importance of early wickets, they are possibly the most important exception that can happen off the first ball of an IPL match to the norm.