South Africa all-rounder Chris Morris became the most expensive player bought for the Indian Premier League when Rajasthan Royals paid $2.25 million (£1.6 million) as part of a spending spree by the world’s richest Twenty20 tournament.
Three-time IPL champions Chennai Super Kings, led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, got England spin bowler Moeen Ali for over $950,000 (£700,000) — more than three times the fee paid when he was last at auction in 2018.
Moeen, 33, returned to England this week after playing a key role in the second Test defeat by India in Chennai.
A host of stars from top cricket nations picked up million dollar-plus contracts for the 10-week tournament that is expected to start in April.
“Serious money” was laid out, said England wicketkeeper batsman Jonny Bairstow.
The fee for the 33-year-old Morris smashed the record $2.2 million (£1.6 million) paid for Yuvraj Singh by Delhi in 2015. Australian bowler Pat Cummins had previously been the most expensive foreign player, costing Kolkata Knight Riders $2.17m (£1.55m) in 2019.
The IPL clubs opened up their cheque books as they seek to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic which forced them to play behind closed doors last year.
New Zealand all-rounder Kyle Jamieson went to Royal Challengers Bangalore for $2 million (£1.4 million), 14 times his start price at the auction.
Bangalore also bought Australian all-rounder Glenn Maxwell for $1.95m (£1.4 million) after another bidding battle.
Maxwell, 32, was released by Punjab Kings — who paid $1.5 million (£1.07 million) for him in 2020 — after just one season.
Punjab snapped up Australian quick Jhye Richardson for $1.9 million (£1.36 million). The 24-year-old has played just two Tests and nine T20 matches.
They also spent $1.1 million (£790,000) for Australian fast bowler Riley Meredith, who has never played for his country.
Former Australia captain Steve Smith went to Delhi Capitals for just $300,000 (£215,000) after being released by Rajasthan.
Off-spinner Krishnappa Gowtham was the costliest Indian after he went to Chennai for $1.25m (£900,000). Arjun Tendulkar, son of Indian cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar, was picked by Mumbai Indians, in the last transaction of the day.
Morris took centre stage however with a protracted bid battle between Rajasthan, Bangalore, reigning champions Mumbai Indians and Punjab.
“The most expensive player in IPL history is now a Royal,” Rajasthan said as it trumpeted bringing in Morris, who will join a team including England stars Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes.
“It was quite a high price, but at the same time, the role in the team and the demand for the role plays a large part,” Royals’ director of cricket Kumar Sangakkara said.
Morris is a fast bowler and hard-hitting lower order batsman. He played for Rajasthan in 2015 and since then had been with Delhi and Bangalore taking 80 wickets in 70 IPL matches.
Jamieson, six feet 8 inches (2 meters) tall, was another stunning buy to bring him in for his maiden IPL season in a team where India captain Virat Kohli is looking for his first success.
Officially, each team is allowed to spend nearly $12 million (£8.6 million) in salaries. Many have a high number of retained players who are never on the auction list.
Kohli is believed to have the biggest IPL salary, earning some $2.7 million (£1.9 million) a year at Bangalore in 2018. He has never been part of the auction.
Meanwhile Chinese phone maker Vivo returned as the IPL’s lead sponsor after the deal was suspended last year following a deadly border clash between India and China.
Vivo had signed a five-year contract in 2017 worth more than $330 million (£236 million) to sponsor the IPL.