An open-and-shut chase: ‘Kohliiii, Kohliii…’ Indore’s Holkar Stadium was drowned by the all-too-familiar chants as the Royal Challengers Bangalore captain made his way out to the middle to open the innings with his wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel. With four wins from 11 games, Kohli’s team has had a pretty underwhelming run in this competition so far. Simply put, they have to win all their remaining games by resounding margins if they harbour hopes of a playoffs spot. However, with their backs to the wall, Bangalore’s bowlers and fielders came up with an outstanding display to dismiss Kings XI Punjab for just 88 runs.
One would expect Bangalore to gun down such a target with relative ease. But the sight of Kohli coming out to open spelt out his team’s intentions – overhaul the total at a frenetic pace. This would ensure a win alright, but more importantly, would give Bangalore the chance to enhance their net run-rate, which stood at a dismal -0.26 before the match. Not surprisingly, Kohli (48 not out) and Parthiv (40 not out) did precisely that, as they chased down the target with 71 deliveries to spare, handing Kings XI their fourth loss from five games. The fact that this match lasted just 23.1 overs, when 450 runs were scored in the previous game in Indore, further underscored Bangalore’s dominance.
It was a rather open-and-shut case, but Bangalore still remains seventh on the points table. However, their clinical display meant their net run-rate has improved dramatically to + 0.218. This result has also altered the scenarios for qualification somewhat. Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers Hyderabad have confirmed a top-two finish, while the Rajasthan Royals have sneaked into fourth spot for the moment. The string of losses notwithstanding, Kings XI can still make it if they win their remaining two league games. As the season winds up towards the business end, the scramble for qualification continues.
Gayle’s threat was neutralised: #Gayleonrevengemode. There are no prizes for guessing why this was trending on Twitter on Monday night. Kings XI Punjab were up against the Royal Challengers Bangalore – a team that Chris Gayle was part of till last year. He had everything going for him in the lead-up to this much-anticipated duel. He was in red hot form with the bat, and with the small boundaries on offer in Indore, the onus was on the Jamaican to explode. He even had the stats to back it up. In 2011, when the Kolkata Knight Riders had snubbed him at the IPL auction, Gayle scored a stunning century against them on their home turf at the Eden Gardens. Consequently, all this had led to a frenzy on social media. All that hype, however, hardly turned into anything substantial. That’s because Bangalore’s fast bowlers, led by Umesh Yadav, came up with a plan to quell the threat posed by Gayle – which was to bowl fast and short. Gayle survived a dropped catch early on (RCB wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel had grassed a sitter), after which he whacked Umesh for a brace of boundaries. But Umesh was relentless in his pursuit. Just to put things into perspective, Bangalore’s fast bowlers bowled 17 short-pitched deliveries to Kings XI batsmen in the Powerplay. The Indian pacer finally got his reward in his third over, when Gayle mistimed a pull shot to hand Mohammad Siraj a simple catch in the deep. The 38-year-old was dismissed for a 14-ball 18.
After his exit, the Kings XI folded up without an ounce of fight. The remaining bastmen just succumbed to the pressure exerted by Kohli’s resourceful bowling attack. Some poor shot selection, a spate of run-outs and lack of a sustained partnership did the ‘home’ side in. The fact that Aaron Finch was the top-scorer with 26 aptly summed up their travails. Bangalore kept chipping away with wickets at frequent intervals.
Umesh, who had orchestrated the slide at the start with the key wickets of Gayle and the rampant KL Rahul, returned to get Andrew Tye. He finished with figures of 4-0-23-3, which was enough to win the Man-of-the-Match award. Punjab, on the other hand, slipped into oblivion.
“I’m bowling just whatever I’m thinking. I just want to carry this form. The last few games I was taken for fours and sixes with the slower ball. Pace and bounce is my strength so I just backed that today. My job is to take one or two wickets. If I use the new ball well the job becomes easy,” a beaming Umesh said after his match-winning spell.