Wow! How can AB de Villiers do it every time? It was a special knock from him to pull Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) out of trouble having come in to bat in the 14th over of the innings and required run-rate being close to 11. The Rajasthan Royals (RR), after doing all things right, were left helpless in the end and had no option but to admire the superb innings from De Villiers.
Earlier, the Royals opted to bat first and surprised by changing their opening combination once again. Robin Uthappa and Ben Stokes walked out to bat and interestingly, the move worked for them. The former finally looked comfortable at the crease, opening for the first time in two seasons, attacked the RCB bowlers in the powerplay overs. Washington Sundar was taken apart for 16 runs in the third over of the innings.
The momentum was with RR after the powerplay thanks to Uthappa who scored 41 off just 22 deliveries before getting out to Yuzvendra Chahal. However, Stokes’s struggles were evident and he was bounced out by Chris Morris to break the 50-run opening stand earlier. But RR suffered a double blow with Sanju Samson also following Uthappa in the dressing room.
At 69/3 in the 8th over, there was a desperate need of partnership for them. And two of their best batsmen, Steve Smith and Jos Buttler, were in the middle. The duo rotated the strike largely and made sure there was no collapse in the middle overs. They added 58 runs in around 8 overs even as RCB bowlers did well to pull things back. Buttler mistimed one shot after crawling to 24 off 25 deliveries but Smith made sure he got the team to decent total.
The Royals’ skipper finally got back in form and scored a crucial half-century. He dished out a few of his unorthodox strokes to leave the opposition flustered and propelled the team to 177 runs for the loss of six wickets in 20 overs. He got out in the final over after smashing 57 off 34 balls. Chris Morris was the nemesis for RR throughout the innings ending with the figures of 4/26 in his four overs.
The thrilling chase
Chasing 178, RCB suffered an early blow with Aaron Finch getting out early thanks to Shreyas Gopal. Virat Kohli and Devdutt Padikkal then once again stitched a brilliant partnership. The duo ran well between the wickets but the dot balls in between were increasing the required run-rate.
RCB’s middle overs problem of not churning out boundaries at will was once again coming to the fore. Kohli tried hitting sixes and fours in between but there were too few. The duo though added 89 runs in around 10 overs which was a commendable effort. However, having stayed in the middle for so long, both the batsmen got out at the wrong time.
While Padikkal hit a tired shot in the air to be holed out in the deep in the 13th over while Virat Kohli also got out in the next over with 76 to get off 41 deliveries. Two new batsmen, AB de Villiers and Gurkeerat Singh Mann, were in the middle and they had to try and up the ante from the word go. But when the former is in the middle, seldom do things go wrong for RCB.
The man batted patiently and when it came down to 35 runs off last two overs, De Villiers opened up his arms. Jaydev Unadkat was at the receiving end of the assault as he went for 25 runs in the over including three consecutive sixes in the penultimate over. AB de Villiers was in the beast mode and once again ensuring to get his team home.
Gurkeerat played small but crucial innings at the other end as well and churned out a four in the 19th over as well. Jofra Archer was handed over the ball to defend 10 runs off the last over but with De Villiers in such nick, even he couldn’t do much. The superman from South Africa ended it with a single to win RCB yet another game with two balls and seven wickets in hand.
With this win, RCB now have 12 points in their kitty and are looking extremely good to make it to the playoffs while the Royals are left with a lot to do in their last five matches.