All that a hapless Dale Steyn could do after the end of the 19th over of the chase was dole out bursts of stunned applause. Moments earlier, Steyn, perhaps the best fast bowler in the world and a storied T20 death-overs specialist, had been subjected to carnage, the over going on to swing the match in Royal Challengers Bangalore’s favour.
The architect of the carnage was none other than Steyn’s South African compatriot, AB de Villiers. The 30-year-old de Villiers till Sunday had struggled for form in this edition of the league. But it did not look like it in the 42 minutes he spent at the crease at the packed Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore. In the end, he gave RCB an unlikely victory in the match. Chasing a target of 156 set by the Sunrisers Hyderabad, de Villiers’ 89 off 41 balls saw RCB to pick up a four-wicket victory with one ball to spare.
The late charge
It all began to change when Shikhar Dhawan, the Sunrisers skipper, threw the ball to Darren Sammy in the 16th over with RCB needing 59 off 30. Two sixes and a four off the over saw de Villiers reduce the equation to a very gettable 40 off 24. The next two overs, bowled by Steyn and the impressive Bhuvneshwar Kumar, allowed RCB just nine runs. Steyn would return in the 19th over needing to defend 28 off 12. The pacer opted to bowl a slower one but de Villiers simply swung the variation over the deep square-leg fence. The next ball was another length offering, albeit at 146kmph. This crashed into the sight screen. A couple of singles later, de Villiers calmly lofted another slightly fuller ball from Steyn over cover for a boundary. However, the most audacious stroke of the night came off the last ball. Steyn bowled length on middle stump, but de Villiers scampered across his stumps, got down on one knee and scooped the ball behind the wicket into the third tier of the stadium.
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The 24 runs that were so coolly acquired from the penultimate eased the equation to four off the last six. Though there was some last over drama with Mitchell Starc being run-out, de Villiers sealed the triumph with a swat to the mid-wicket fence.
Then, as now…
Interestingly, two years ago, de Villiers had engineered an eerily similar heist for RCB against the erstwhile Deccan Chargers. Chasing 182, RCB required 39 off 18 balls before de Villiers clobbered 23 runs off the 18th over, bowled once again by Steyn.
Earlier, the Sunrisers put up 155 for six with David Warner muscling his way to a belligerent 61. Dhawan also got valuable runs under his belt, helping himself to 37 before perishing off a short ball.
RCB were rocked early in their chase with Bhuvneshwar Kumar sending back Parthiv Patel and Virat Kohli, the latter for a duck, in the second over. Kumar got the new ball to swing both ways and consistently troubled the batsmen. After the powerplay, leg-spinner Karn Sharma sent down four accurate overs and snaring three wickets, including Chris Gayle’s. When Sharma took his third wicket —Yuvraj Singh — RCB were 95/5 in the 15th over. But it wasn’t over.