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Delhi fly high on de Kock masterpiece

Wisden India logo Wisden India 17-04-2016

The floodlights painted the Bangalore sky silver this Sunday (April 17). The air carried the cheers and the expectations of the city. At the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore were taking on Delhi Daredevils in their quest for their first piece of Indian Premier League silverware. Down the fan-festooned road, one big AB de Villiers six away, at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, the Sunil Chhetri-led Bengaluru Football Club were aiming to reclaim their domestic I-League title.

But as the BFC Blues went marching to a 2-0 win over Salgaocar FC to lift the cup with one game to go, the RCB men in red and black were thwarted by a 23-year-old South African and one of the state’s own. Despite dominating fifties from AB de Villiers and Kohli, Quinton de Kock’s calm century under pressure and local boy Karun Nair’s unbeaten 54 helped Delhi complete the chase of their opponents’ 191 for 5 with seven wickets and five balls to spare.

De Kock showed over the course of his 51-ball 108 that what Bangalore’s star batsmen could do, he could do better. Unmoved in the face of scoreboard pressure, he decorated the ground with an array of shots, with a particular expertise behind square, to ensure Delhi were never behind the demanding asking rate. After his unbeaten 59 in the last win, he went one better to bring up his third T20 hundred in just 48 balls. The landmark, greeted with a muted raised bat and a mid-pitch embrace of Nair, came off an unassuming single, but was helped along by 13 fours – he would go on to add two more – and three sixes.

In his efforts, de Kock found an able partner in Nair, who allowed the opener to play the dominant role. The duo’s 134-run stand in 12.4 overs shaded even de Villiers and Kohli’s second-wicket partnership of 107.

Less than a week after they had posted 227 on the same ground against Sunrisers Hyderabad, Bangalore’s batsmen came to the fore again after they were asked to bat. Which isn’t to say Delhi’s bowlers didn’t give it a good go.

With the mercurial Chris Gayle in the middle of a dismal run in T20s, Zaheer Khan chose to attack from the get go. The intent was on full display in the opening delivery, which the left-arm pacer got to swing beautifully, only for Gayle to miss. The Jamaican let the next ball go, but with a slip and gully in place, he edged an outswinger to the outstretched hands of JP Duminy. A duck for Gayle making for a sequence now reads 0, 1, 4, 5, 4.

But the first-over wicket proved to be scant solace for Delhi, with the Bangalore innings following a familiar ‘No Gayle, no worry’ script. De Villiers and Kohli saw out 11 overs, finding the gaps for boundaries and singles with equal ease.

Mohammed Shami was greeted upon his return to cricket after a long injury lay-off with a six and two fours – one a cracker from Kohli over cover – in an over that brought 16 runs. Shami, bowling in the mid to low 130kph, couldn’t reasonably be faulted for missing pace, but was punished on the occasions he bowled short.

The pacers were taken for 63 in the Power Play, and even the introduction of spin through Pawan Negi and Amit Mishra couldn’t provide a breakthrough.

On the eve of the match, Kohli and Gayle, under the watchful eye of coach Daniel Vettori, took turns facing spin at the nets, with de Villiers too among those turning his arm over. Despite Kedar Jadhav insisting otherwise at the pre-match press conference, it was evident that, even on a surface that isn’t particularly friendly to the tweakers, they were going into the game with a plan against a team whose strength so far has been the turning ball. As it turned out, they need not have worried as the Indian and South African Test captains combined to negate the threat.

De Villiers brought up his fifty in 25 balls with a smart single off Negi, which had followed a beautifully placed four in a perfect representation of the duo’s formula for the evening.

It took the introduction of Carlos Brathwaite in the 12th over to break the stand that had seen hundred on the board in 10.5 overs, de Villiers caught at long-on by Shami for a 33-ball 55 that included nine fours and a six.

With the fall of his partner, Kohli chose to take the aerial route along with Shane Watson. The 14th over went for 16 runs, the 15th for 13, and the 16th, bowled by Zaheer, for 21, which meant Delhi’s captain finished with 1 for 50 from his four overs. Bangalore’s third fifty needed just 28 balls, Watson’s three sixes and two fours helping no end.

Delhi did well to pull things back at the death after that hammering. There would be no Sarfaraz Khan cameo, with Shami completing a stellar pick-up, turn and throw to run him out to cap an over where he had already seen the back of Watson. He also brought an end to Kohli, whose almost tired -looking shot found the hands of Shreyas Iyer at long-on.

A collection of mistimed shots from an uncomfortable Jadhav, slogs and scampered runs allowed the hosts to add only 18 runs in the last three overs and 191 for 5 seemed perhaps a few runs short, especially when de Kock got going.

Delhi lost Iyer early to a stunning piece of combined fielding from David Wiese and Watson at the boundary – Watson ran back from mid-on to get his hands to the mistimed shot, but when he realised the momentum was going to take him across the ropes, he threw it back to Wiese, who held onto a one-handed catch even as he himself narrowly avoided contact with the boundary – and Sanju Samson too couldn’t capitalise on a good batting track.

The Bangalore bowling looked dicey, but Harshal Patel and Parvez Rasool found just enough in the middle overs to keep the scoreboard pressure on. A 20-run 14th over from Wiese, however, marked the turnaround, and there was no respite for Bangalore thereafter.

Watson (2/25), Bangalore’s best bowler, finally got de Kock caught behind by Jadhav, but with just eight runs required off 10 balls, the hard work had already been done.

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