Synopsis: Catching, batting — it’s AB de Villiers all the way.
Marcus Stoinis dropped a catch and it could have been the match as well. Nicholas Pooran, threatening to take Kings XI Punjab to victory, threw his bat at a short ball from Umesh Yadav. The top edge went high in the air and Stoinis got underneath it. Somehow though, the ball popped out of his hands. That an Australian didn’t go with a reverse cup to a skier was unusual. But it wasn’t the time for technicalities. Royal Challengers were on the verge of crashing out.
Someone had to lift the team’s morale. AB de Villiers, who else, did it. David Miller swung at a full delivery from Navdeep Saini but didn’t get the distance. De Villiers ran in from long-on, dived forward and grabbed it with both hands. Miller had a 68-run fourth- wicket partnership with Pooran, which made Kings XI Punjab strong favourites to pull it off. From Bangalore’s point of view though, Pooran had to be dismissed.
Saini was into his final over and saw off Pooran. The left-hander from Trinidad was struggling with the youngster’s pace and when he tried to send a fullish delivery into orbit, he mistimed it. As the ball started its descend, de Villiers positioned himself underneath it. The ball swerved at the last moment, forcing the great Saffer to dive. He came up with the catch.
Pooran’s blitz had brought the equation down to 30 runs required off the last two overs. The excellent Saini conceded only three runs in the penultimate over and took those game-changing wickets to take his team to the cusp of their third consecutive win. Yadav sealed it with a very good final over, when he accounted for R Ashwin and Hardus Viljoen off successive deliveries.
With the match done and dusted, the Royal Challengers skipper could even afford a smile. But it wasn’t looking rosy when Pooran was tearing into Washington Sundar or clobbering Moeen Ali. In the end, the hosts had 202 runs to defend, and Kings XI were under scoreboard pressure. More importantly, Royal Challengers had De Villiers.
For the better part of their innings, Royal Challengers were limping. After Parthiv Patel belted Mohammed Shami for three fours and a six in an over, the scoring graph suddenly dipped. Ashwin brilliantly effected the spin-choke. The other Ashwin, Murugan, removed Patel and then the skipper cleaned up the in-form Moeen Ali with an arm ball. At end of the 13th over, Royal Challengers were 99/4, with de Villiers batting on run-a-ball 23.
He had to bat deep. At the same time, de Villiers needed to up the ante. Royal Challengers barely had any batting left after him and Stoinis. The latter took a maximum off M Ashwin, but de Villiers had to take the lead. He warmed up with a four off Ankit Rajpoot followed by a monstrous six over deep mid-wicket. In the next over, he sent M Ashwin into the terraces.
Ashwin, the skipper, came back for his final over and bowled brilliantly to stem the run flow. De Villiers, too, refused to take any chances against Kings XI’s best bowler. A four off Viljoen brought up his half-century. A six came on its heels. Then, the dismantling of Shami began. A sliced drive sent a full delivery over long-off. De Villiers repeated it next ball, only that the ball went further. Shami tried to respond with a yorker, missed his length and presented a full-toss. The ball exited the stadium. De Villiers wasn’t even in the right position to play the pull shot. His took evasive action to start with, but still middled it.
Viljoen was treated with disdain in the final over. By then, Stoinis had joined the party. De Villiers started off with a six before handing over the demolition job to his partner. Two fours and as many sixes from Stoinis accounted for a 27-run over.
On TV Today: KKR vs RR, Live on Star Sports 1 & 3 — 8 pm Onwards