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King Kohli keeps RCB charge alive

Wisden India logo Wisden India 18-05-2016
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This is incredibly ridiculous. Adjectives are drying up and he is soon making people forget about Sachin Tendulkar. But, all that Virat Kohli cares for currently is a place for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the play-offs of the Indian Premier League 2016. His 50-ball 113 – an unprecedented fourth century this season – took his tally to 865 runs in 13 innings, and also made him the first batsman to cross the 4,000-run mark in the nine-year history of the IPL while setting the tone for a thumping 82-run win by the Duckworth-Lewis method at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium on Wednesday (May 18).

Put into bat in a 15-overs-a-side affair after rain delayed the start by an hour and 45 minutes, Bangalore rode on their captain’s knock and his opening-wicket partnership of 147 runs with Chris Gayle to post 211 for 3. After that, Punjab swung their bats hard but managed only 120 for 9 in 14 overs when rain came again. Bangalore’s seventh win propelled them from fifth to second position on the points table, and boosted their net run-rate to +0.93 with one game to go.

That it was Kohli’s second consecutive big contribution in a win, after the 75 not out against Kolkata Knight Riders two nights back, with seven stitches on his left hand portrayed his steely side. He let the backdrop of the injury be known by gesturing to his hand immediately after flicking Sandeep Sharma to the midwicket fence in the 14th over to reach the three-figure mark.

Before he raised his bat and pointed to his hand, he held on to the shot just for a fraction of a second for the photographers. The next delivery was in the slot and was swung over the fence, and the subsequent ball revealed Kohli’s finesse even further. Bowling from round the wicket, Sandeep expected Kohli to again play across the line to the legside. So, he bowled a little wide and Kohli changed his shot at the last minute to hit a straight drive and complete his set of 12 fours and eight sixes. Kohli mistimed the final ball of that over for David Miller to take an easy catch at mid-off, but the job was done.

Kohli opened his account with a backfoot punch to the cover fence off Sandeep in the game’s first over, and from then on he and Gayle manipulated the field placements in a manner befitting their reputations. Punjab’s initial idea was to cramp the openers for space and they largely succeeded for the first three overs. Then came a costly lapse.

Kyle Abbott made a strong comeback after two sixes and a four to Gayle in the fourth over. Kohli, on 10, played the final ball of that over to backward point and called for a non-existent run. Sent back, he had given up, but Axar Patel could not produce a direct hit.

Each of the 17 overs from then on produced at least ten runs, with KC Cariappa having the most expensive returns of 0 for 55. In fact, Bangalore hit 18 or more runs in eight overs, leaving the crowd breathless. There were little options for Punjab’s bowlers, but by primarily attacking from round the wicket they telegraphed their plans to the batsmen and had nowhere to hide.

The 11th over bowled by Axar was a perfect example of how things went wrong. He earned some grace when Gayle was caught at long-off in the final ball of that over, but he had already conceded three sixes between long-on and midwicket to the Jamaican by bowling in a predictable channel.

Punjab’s chase started with a blaze of boundaries, but they slipped due to a regular fall of wickets. M Vijay played on to S Arvind, and Wriddhiman Saha was unlucky to be given lbw after the television umpire felt Yuzvendra Chahal’s front foot was within the popping crease. Hashim Amla was caught beautifully by a diving forward Chris Jordan at mid-off.

Chahal, then, took with three cheap late wickets to finish with 4 for 25. Chahal, Gayle, the groundsmen and the capacity crowd were all stars of the night, but Kohli owned the stage.

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