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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

IPL 2022: Virat Kohli finds his touch, keeps RCB in contention for IPL playoffs

Virat Kohli's highest score of IPL 2022 gave RCB a comfortable win over GT in their last league game, but they still need DC to lose to MI on Saturday.

Written by Abhishek Purohit | Mumbai |
Updated: May 20, 2022 8:17:51 am
RCB defeat GT by 8 wickets. (Photo by Saikat Das / Sportzpics for IPL)

After yet another start had ended in yet another soft dismissal, the clip of Virat Kohli screaming at the skies, ‘what else do you want me to do?’ had gone viral. That was a week ago in Royal Challengers Bangalore’s previous game against Punjab Kings, and Kohli had had a few days since to try and reboot and refresh for his side’s final league match of the season against Gujarat Titans at Wankhede Stadium on Thursday.

In his previous outing at the ground, against Sunrisers Hyderabad, Kohli had gone first ball of the match, popping it off the pad straight to midwicket. The Sunday crowd, which had braved the draining afternoon commute into town, was so stunned it couldn’t even properly groan out its disappointment.

On Thursday night, after an average of 19.66 and a strike-rate of 113.46 after the first 13 games, the fans got their old, switched-on, turbo-charged Kohli back. The frustration was all but gone, and the needle had returned. So had some of the old imperiousness.

In the third over of the RCB chase, he swatted Mohammed Shami over his head for four with a disdainful roll of the wrists. Off the next legal delivery, Shami jagged it away outside off; Kohli chased it and was lucky not to edge it. The next ball was classic Kohli comeback. Shami overpitched just a bit, and Kohli leaned out instantly to dispatch him over the covers for four more. He’d reach his fifty off 33 balls by whipping Rashid Khan for six over midwicket.

Both his sixes, in fact, came against the hard-to-target Afghan leg-spinner. His 73 off 54 was only his second half-century of the season, and easily better than the scratchy 58 off 53 he had made against the same opponents at the Cricket Club of India last month.

Luck smiles on Kohli and RCB

Right from the start, Kohli was in the mood to celebrate any and all the runs RCB scored. He exulted as Shami could not control the line of a delivery that swung further down the leg side away from the keeper for five wides. He thumped his glove on his bat as he and his skipper Faf du Plessis collected boundaries off the inside edge.

Going by the IPL Kohl had had until this match, the edges could well have clattered into the stumps. But this last game was a little payback from the heavens for a season that had brought the trauma of three golden ducks among assorted unexplainable dismissals.

So on 16, when he swung Hardik Pandya to deep backward square leg, Rashid found himself too far inside the boundary and despite an acrobatic attempt, shelled what would have otherwise been a straightforward catch.

Up for a joust

Chases from within the ring at Wankhede are usually futile, ranged up as they are against a lightning-fast, by no means large outfield. But Kohli had enough juice in the batteries to zoom after a ball during the GT innings and go tumbling at deep midwicket to scoop it back in.

And in the chase, after taking a quick single, he almost walked all the way up to the fielder Lockie Ferguson, seemingly itching for some more action than what was on offer on the pitch.

Until the time he was stumped off Rashid with just 23 more required, the ‘come ons’ and roars hadn’t ceased. After what he thought was an opportunity to punch Rashid in the gap at midwicket, which resulted only in a single to long-on instead, he rebuked himself harshly. And after walking off to a cheering ovation for a change, he went inside the dressing room and flung away his gloves. But this wasn’t the frustration of not having scored runs, this was probably just a never-satisfied batsman’s disappointment at not having been there to hit the winning runs.

GT get stuck

Pandya had chosen to bat first to give his chase-happy line-up one more shot at their weaker suit. But a direct hit from du Plessis ran out Wriddhiman Saha, who’d been sweetly launching the ball all around until then. And Pandya could not quite find the balance between attack and circumspection for the rest of the innings.

He’d power a big hit over the rope and then go into his shell for a while. It was not dissimilar to KL Rahul’s predicament a day ago against Kolkata Knight Riders, when he had batted 49 balls for an unbeaten 61. At least Rahul got away with turning the strike over to the centurion Quinton de Kock. With GT’s thin line-up, Pandya remained more or less stuck, ending on an unbeaten 62 off 47.

Rashid swiped a couple of sixes at the end to drag GT to 168 for 5, but the pitch had begun to get better for batting after over an hour or so. And once Kohli and du Plessis put on 115 for the opening stand, there was no way back for GT.

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But as if to make matters absolutely watertight, there was still more fortune coming RCB’s way. The bail lit up and the bowler Rashid started to celebrate Glenn Maxwell’s golden duck, but then the bail decided to go to rest again on the stumps. RCB need some more luck still; Delhi Capitals have to lose to Mumbai Indians on Saturday for them to make the playoffs.

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