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De Villiers, Kohli power RCB to victory

Wisden India logo Wisden India 22-04-2016
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Royal Challengers Bangalore ticked off nearly everything on their to-do list during a 13-run run win over a faltering Rising Pune Supergriants their Indian Premier League 2016 match at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune on Friday (April 22).

First up, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers shared a colossal 155-run stand for the second wicket to take Bangalore to 185 for 3 after being put in to bat. Although steep, the target seemed achievable given how deep Pune’s batting went, but Bangalore’s bowling came good on the day to stop the home side short at 172 for 8.

‘Chase to win’ has been the mantra in this edition of the IPL so far, with 14 of the 16 wins coming from teams that had a target in sight – the only two wins that came while defending a target, belonged to Bangalore.

The tone of the match was set early when Kohli (80 off 63 balls) and de Villiers (83 off 46 balls) got going – a familiar sight in this tournament so far. An early wicket for Bangalore has caused opponents more headache than relief, and as has been the case in two of their past three matches, there was no stopping the Kohli-de Villiers show. Such was the dominance that the pair brought up their third century stand in four matches, leaving the Pune bowlers searching for answers.

After KL Rahul’s scratchy stay at crease ended early when a slog off Thisara Perera carried to Ishant Sharma at the third-man boundary, Kohli and de Villiers settled into a good groove very early into the innings.

Kohli ran his runs hard and pulled out the big shot when the ball was right. When Ishant erred in line, Kohli punished and carved fours. Then there was an immaculate six over fine leg that reduced Ishant to a mere spectator.

But though Kohli was pleasing to the eye, it was de Villiers who played the innings of substance. He set the pace in the first half, showing little mercy against quick and slow bowlers alike. When he played the big shots, de Villiers did not hold back, and had more than enough power to clear the ropes. And when there was even the slightest doubt that the fielder in the deep would come into play, de Villiers checked himself. The approach paid off, as he brought up his half-century off only 25 balls.

Even as runs flowed in a torrent, R Ashwin and Rajat Bhatia, who replaced Irfan Pathan in Pune’s XI, did well to keep Bangalore to 79 for 1 at the half-way mark. The floodgates sort of opened after that as de Villiers attacked compulsively, taking the aerial route whenever it was open to him, forcing MS Dhoni to swap his bowlers around.

Meanwhile, Kohli was happy to play the role an anchor, bringing up his half-century from 47 balls. It was only in the slog overs that Kohli upped the tempo, targeting Perera and Ishant, who leaked 47 runs in his four overs without any success. R Ashwin had successfully stemmed the run-flow in the middle overs, but Dhoni, surprisingly, chose not to bowl him out.

A couple of fours from Kohli came in the last over, but a mistimed slog off Perera that found Rahane at midwicket, meant Kohli couldn’t bat out the entire innings. It was a case of too little too late for Pune, as de Villiers was the next to depart, top-edging a slower delivery. But the duo had done enough to ensure that Bangalore’s bowlers had more than enough to defend.

Pune’s chase was thrown off gear right at the start as Kane Richardson removed the in-form Faf du Plessis in the second over. Their woes were compounded soon after, when Kevin Pietersen limped off the field after hurting his calf muscle while attempting a single. And if that wasn’t enough, Steven Smith was run out in the next over to leave Pune in a spot at 18 for 2 in three overs, effectively three down with Pietersen retired hurt.

Rahane and Dhoni, who promoted himself to No. 4, plodded along, hitting occasional boundaries. While Rahane made batting look easy, bringing up his half-century off 37 balls, Bangalore didn’t lose their composure as Kohli brought out his trump cards who kept things as tight as possible.

Tabraiz Shamsi, the uncapped South African wrist spinner who replaced an injured Samuel Badree, had linked up with the Bangalore squad only a day prior to the match, but there was no sign of rustiness whatsoever. Shamsi impressed on his IPL debut, as Rahane, who looked in sublime touch, was beaten in flight and stumped for a 46-ball 60.

With 71 to get off 30 deliveries, the pressure of the asking rate got Dhoni, who toe-ended a slightly widish Harshal Patel delivery for de Villiers to pull off a superb catch at long-off, departing for a 38-ball 41. Perera and Bhatia were quick off the blocks and even found the gaps in between. With 50 required off 18 balls, the momentum was firmly placed in Bangalore’s favour, but the duo clobbered 25 runs off Patel in the 18th over. However, that only served to lessen the margin of defeat, not its inevitability.

Parity was restored when Kohli brought back Shane Watson, who prised out Perera (34 off 13 balls) and R Ashwin in a space of three deliveries.

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