Just 67 balls into the RCB chase on Friday night, the game seemed to be effectively over. The scoreboard showed 76 runs for the loss of five wickets. With 123 runs still to get from the 53 remaining balls, there was likely to be only one winner.
That is, if one didn’t account for AB de Villiers.
All that remained between a rampant Kings XI Punjab and victory was the presence of the South African.
De Villiers had single-handedly pulled his franchise to an unlikely win against Hyderabad Sunrisers five days ago, but on Friday, at a packed Chinnaswamy stadium, even he could not counter the all-out show of Kings XI Punjab, who eventually won by 32 runs.\
Before the game began, KXIP captain George Bailey had said that the side that would bowl better would take the game. With no shortage of batting power on either side, the game was expected to be a slam-bang affair.
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According to script
For the first 90 minutes, that script was followed. Virender Sehwag, Glenn Maxwell and David Miller wreaked havoc on the usual belter at this ground, taking apart the RCB bowling. Sehwag, Mandeep and Maxwell all played effective cameos but the innings that made the difference on the day was that of David Miller’s. He even deposited one of his three sixes on the Chinnaswamy stadium roof. His 66 off 29 balls helped Punjab post 198.
At the change-over, as the hulking figure of Chris Gayle hurried to put on his pads, the crowd seemed to wind itself up, in expectation of another blitz. However, Sandeep Sharma, the 21-year-old pacer from Patiala known for his swing rather than raw pace, made the partisan fans go quiet 10 minutes into the RCB chase.
The first ball of Sharma’s second over, was pitched up and Gayle planted his foot down and took a mighty swipe, aiming to send the ball rocketing through the covers. All he managed was a thick outside edge that Wriddhiman Saha gobbled up gleefully behind the stumps. Next ball, Sharma sent a length ball down the leg-side. RCB’s skipper, Virat Kohli, tried to help it beyond short fine-leg, but only got a tickle which disappeared into Saha’s mitts. Eight for two in 14 balls, and two of RCB’s most prolific batsmen were back in the hut. More misery was soon to follow. Three overs later, a wide short ball from Sharma was slapped by Parthiv Patel straight down the throat of Mandeep Singh sweeping the off-side boundary.
Earlier, Haryana all-rounder, Sachin Rana had been inexplicably promoted up the order ahead of AB de Villiers and Yuvraj Singh. With the asking rate above 12, Rana’s pinch-hitting role lasted 16 balls, bringing two boundaries and a six before spinner Akshar Patel flattened his stumps.
Much has been expected of Yuvraj Singh this IPL season. The most expensive purchase at this year’s auction at Rs 14 crore, Yuvraj had his task cut out as RCB needed 160 runs from 13 overs.
Bowling to him was a 20-year-old debutant, Shivam Sharma — one who has not played a single first class, List A or T20 match. The off-spinner from Delhi was expected to be carted around by the veteran. In the five balls that Yuvraj faced in the offie’s first over, he did not manage to get bat on ball even once. Thrice the ball whirred past the outside edge narrowly missing Yuvraj’s confused prods.
In the bowler’s second over no variations were served, a flighted conventional off-break was all it took to send Yuvraj on his way. The ball pitched on middle, broke away sharply taking the outside edge and into the waiting palms of Virender Sehwag. Albie Morkel, who is having a disappointing season with the bat, perished off another Sharma off-break, top-edging a simple catch to Bailey.
De Villiers, gamely tried to fight on. Desperately trying to make things interesting. He partially succeeded, smacking five huge sixes and a boundary to make 53 off 26 balls before throwing his bat at a wide over-pitched delivery to extinguish any hopes that RCB might have harbored.