Synopsis: The AB-Virat show once again puts RCB in a position of ascendancy, with Thisara Perera being the only bright spot in Pune’s bowling. However, Bangalore once again bucks the trend by defending their tally 185.
157, 107 and 59. These are the series of partnerships between Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB)’s captain Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers in three games so far. Batting with supreme confidence and matching each other stroke for stroke, the pair has been RCB’s cornerstone as far as their batting is concerned. They are precisely the reason this side has managed to notch up competitive scores despite Chris Gayle be largely a subdued figure. Judging by the three games so far, there seems to be a pattern developing in RCB’s batting.
They would lose an early wicket (Gayle in the first two games, and KL Rahul in their previous encounter against the Mumbai Indians), following which their two talismans – Kohli and AB – would help resurrect the innings. Tonight, againt the Pune Rising Supergiants, a similar narrative had unfolded. Captain Kohli lost his fourth consecutive toss, and was asked to take first strike. Rahul once again got out early, setting the stage for the AB-Virat show.
When AB walked in the third over, Kohli had already raced to 20, buoyed by a couple of boundaries and a six. However, it was not long before AB would get into the act. He kick-started his innings in just his third delivery, creaming young Ankit Sharma to the boundary between covers and the point region. Between overs No. 5 and 12, the 32-year-old South African raced past his captain, and bringing up his half century off just 25 deliveries. AB was once again at his vintage best, picking runs with neatly-placed sweeps and powerful cut off the spinners.
He was especially harsh on leggie M Ashwin, hoicking him for two huge sixes in the 11th over. If that was not enough, AB then followed it up with a delightful reverse sweep off a full toss in Ashwin’s next over. And every now and then, he would sashay down the track off medium pacers to get them off-guard. On a pretty good batting track in Pune, his ploy paid off. AB’s belligerence meant the run-rate kept galloping, despite Bangalore’s early setback, and this in turn allowed captain Kohli to play the anchor’s role to nicety.
Dhoni used the medium pace of Rajat Bhatia to peg them back. That did not work though, as Kohli eventually cut loose after reaching his fifty. He clubbed a beefy six off Perera in the 18th over. In the penultimate over, he collected 16 runs off Ishant Sharma, to take him into the 80s. By the time the AB-Virat stand got over – both getting out off successive deliveries in the final over to Perera – they had stitched 155 runs for the second wicket. Interestingly enough, RCB had played only 28 dots in their innings, which is the third least in an IPL innings. This stat once again underlines the kind of dominance both AB and Virat had managed to exert on the proceedings.
Perera, the lone bright spot
For most part in the first innings, Pune’s bowlers were simply clueless to the skill and gumption of Bangalore’s superstars. Their travails can be best summed up by their lead fast bowler – Ishant Sharma’s final bowling analysis – which read: 4-0-47-0.
Despite having played international cricket for close to a decade, it’s baffling to note that Sharma has still not learnt one of cricket’s most simplest tenet – bowling on one side of the wicket. The Delhi bowler was all over the place with his lines, and despite working up some good pace, it had absolutely no effect on Kohli and AB.
The spinners – the two Ashwins- too were well worked out. Rajat Bhatia managed to frustrate Kohli a wee bit in the middle overs. But the only redeeming factor in Pune’s bowling was Perera. He first got opener Rahul out in the third over.
When he came back for his final spell, Kohli and AB were going berserk, and a score in excess of 200 looked like a distinct possibility. Perera brought about his clever change of pace, which ultimately fetched him his two prized wickets. The Lankan all-rounder would end his spell with figures of 4-0-34-3.
Bucking the trend
At the end of RCB’s essay, Kohli had said that if his bowlers bowled tightly, they could defend 185. However, the start was far from perfect for the RCB. Pune opener Ajinkya Rahane began in the most emphatic fashion, stroking two pleasant drives off the bowling of Stuart Binny to begin his side’s chase in right earnest. However, Kane Richardson gave Kohli the early breathrough, when he dismissed Faf Du Plessis for measly two runs. However, a freakish injury to Kevin Pietersen’s calf muscle meant he retired hurt after facing just one delivery.
When Steve Smith was brilliantly run out by Virat Kohli, RCB had clear grip on the procceedings. Pune’s captain MS Dhoni walked in at No.5. This was incidentally only the second time in IPL that he has batted so high in the order. Before this, he had batted at No.3 against the Delhi Daredevils in the 2010 edition. The onus was now on Rahane and his captain to make a match of this. By the end of the mandatory Powerplay, Pune’s score had read 36.
However, Rahane upped the ante, once again scoring off Binny in the seventh over. Captain Dhoni then got into the act, leg glancing chinaman bowler Shamshi for a boundary. Unlike Pune, the RCB bowlers were far more disciplined in their bowling. Between overs no.6 and 15, only 73 runs were added.
Rahane brought his fifty with a single off Abdullah. But with the run-rate heading north, Rahane was finally out for 60, foxed by Shamshi’s slider. When Dhoni was dismissed six balls later, the required rate had climbed to well over 16 runs/over. Perera, fresh from his three-wicket burst, clubbed medium pacer Harshal Patel for three fours and a six in the 18th over, to bring the match in parity. Pune now required 25 runs from their final two overs.
A sensational penultimate over from Shane Watson, which yielded only four runs and fetched RCB the wickets of Perera and Ravi Ashwin, derailed Pune’s chase for good. The 13-run win for the RCB now means they are the only team in this edition to win two matches batting first.