A destructive innings by world’s best wicketkeeper-bat AB de Villiers helped Royal Challengers Bangalore make short work of the 178-run target set by Rajasthan Royals in the first tie of the Indian Premier League double header on Saturday. Needing five runs from three balls, De Villiers hit a six off the fourth ball of the 20th over to guide RCB to a seven-wicket win.
De Villiers’ 22-ball 55 trumped the 36-ball 57 by Royals skipper Steve Smith as the Jaipur-based franchise’s campaign to make the playoffs was left precariously hanging in the air. With the triumph, RCB now have 12 points from nine games, at par with Delhi Capitals and Mumbai Indians who are ahead on account of their NRR. RR, on the other hand, maintain their seventh position on the points tally with three wins from nine outings.
With 35 runs needed from 12 balls, Royals were still in with a chance but for an expensive 19th over by Jaydev Unadkat which cost them 25 runs tilted the balance in RCB’s favour. The aggressor was ought to be De Villiers, hitting Unadkat for a hat-trick of sixes to different parts of the Dubai International Stadium with the left-arm medium-pacer’s strategy of bowling slower ones failing completely.
RCB began their chase on a cautious note with the first couple of overs fetching just nine runs. Australia’s Aaron Finch hit two sixes — one over square leg and the other over long-off fence in the third over — off Archer as he began to take things in his control. However, just when he put the race, a clever delivery from leg-spinner Shreyas Gopal in the next over stopped his march. In his attempt to slog sweep, Finch sliced one to the careful hands of Robin Uthappa at mid-off.
But Finch’s opening partner Devdutt Padikkal kept the ticker going with two consecutive fours in the fifth over off newcomer Kartik Tyagi.
While Padikkal went about his slogging role, Kohli kept it simple and steady, choosing when to attack — like that huge six over mid-wicket by getting deep into his crease off Gopal. RCB reached 77/1 after 10 overs, needing 101 runs off the remaining 10.
Tewatia and Tyagi, the double ‘T’s, then dried up the run flow for RCB, who went boundary-less for 14 balls. Kohli tried to spice the chase with a six over long on in the 13th over off Tewatia. But three balls later, Padikkal in trying to follow his skipper found Stokes’ bucket hands, departing for a modest 37-ball 35.
The very next ball, first of the 14 th over, a brilliant catch by Tewatia at the deep mid-wicket boundary sent Kohli packing off Tyagi’s in-cutter.
With both the established batters gone, it was now left to the best wicketkeeper-bat De Villiers and Gurkeerat Mann (19) to rescue the Bengaluru outfit.
Earlier, a solid comeback by Robin Uthappa (41), who was given the opener’s role along with talismanic all-rounder Ben Stokes, and a half-century by Smith helped Rajasthan Royals post a challenging 177/6 in 20 overs.
The Royals got off to a good start after opting to bat, by reaching 50 for the loss of none in 5.2 overs, before things began to turn RCB’s way.
Stokes looked out of place in his short stint at the crease. South African all-rounder Chris Morris’ slower bouncer on the leg side caught him by surprise as England’s World Cup hero attempted to pull before edging one into the gloves of de Villiers.
The 29-year-old departed for just 15 runs from 19 balls, bringing us back to the question whether he fits well in the opener’s slot.
Uthappa came in to bat with an attacking mindset and spared none of the RCB bowlers. He hit four boundaries off the promising off-spinner Washington Sundar in the third over and later slammed a four and a six on the last two deliveries off Isuru Udana’s first over to reach 28 off 13 deliveries. He then hit India pacer Navdeep Saini for successive fours in the seventh over to reach his eventual score.
Leggie Yuzvendra Chahal foxed Uthappa and then danger man Sanju Samson, who was offered his favourite No. 3 position today, on his consecutive deliveries to send Royals on the backfoot.
Chahal invited the 34-year-old Uthappa to sweep a tossed up delivery only to miscue his shot and send it into the strong grasp of Aaron Finch.
Samson began well by welcoming Chahal with a six over midwicket on his very first ball before the Haryana bowler got him caught at long-off by Morris. Samson returned to the pavilion with just nine runs in his bag as the scoreboard read 69 for three.
It was then, a 58-run fourth-wicket partnership between Smith and Jos Buttler (24) and later a 46-run stand for the fifth wicket with Rahul Tewatia (19) that helped the Jaipur-based franchise reach a competitive total. In his quest to accelerate the run rate, Buttler was taken by Saini at long-off in Morris’ third over.
Smith looked in his elements today bludgeoning six fours and a six — cutting over point, chopping to third man, hoicking one over the midwicket fence – before being caught by Shahbaz Ahmed at sweeper cover.
Tewatia followed in Smith’s footsteps, hitting one to the fence and another over it in the 19th over. He was then joined by pace spearhead Jofra Archer, who made just two runs before being adjudged leg before.
Both Smith and Archer were removed by Morris, whose final figures read 4-26.