Supergiants fail the Royal Challenge : A partnership of 155 runs for the second wicket between the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) skipper, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers in 15.5 overs virtually put the Rising Pune Supergiants (RPS) out of the game in the encounter that took place at the Maharashtra Cricket Stadium, Pune.
Put into bat by MS Dhoni, the visitors lost one of the openers, KL Rahul (7) very early in the innings.Thereafter Kohli and de Villiers got together and put the RPS fielders on a virtual ‘leather hunt’.
Murugan Ashwin, playing his first IPL season, who has had a reasonable outing prior to this game, found himself being hammered all over the park by the duo. He went for as many as 29 runs in just 2 overs and could not complete his quota.
All the other bowlers also had economy in excess of 7 with the speedster Ishant Sharma, giving away 47 runs in his spell of 4 overs.
Scoring briskly de Villiers reached his half-century in just 25 deliveries with the help of 4 fours and 3 huge sixes while Kohli brought up his half-ton in 47 deliveries with 3 fours and a solitary six.
The duo stayed put till the third delivery of the 20th over, when Kohli, trying to pull a Thisara Perera slow delivery, miscued and the ball safely landed in the waiting hands of Ajinkya Rahane, who seldom makes mistakes.
Kohli had notched up 80 runs off 63 deliveries with the help of 7 fours and 2 sixes at 126.98 strike rate.
The very next delivery of Perera, a slow leg-cutter outside the off-stump, which de Villiers wanted to dispatch beyond long-on fence, got a top edge and the ball ballooned to Ankit Sharma, who barely managed to hold on to the catch, losing balance as the ball landed into his hands.
AB de Villiers scored 83 runs off just 43 deliveries studded with 6 fours and 4 sixes at a whooping 180.43 strike rate.With Perera on a hat-trick, the next man in, young Sarfaraz Khan, denied that opportunity to Perera.RCB ended their campaign with 185 runs for the loss of 3 wickets.
Chasing 186 runs was never going to be easy, more so for a ‘low-on-confidence’ RPS batsmen.Losing Faf du Plessis (2), Kevin Pietersen (0), retired hurt and Steven Smith (4), RPS were in dire straits with just 18 runs on the board in the third over.Skipper Dhoni walked in to give company to Rahane, who was then batting on 11 runs.
The duo added 91 runs in 12.1 overs for the third-wicket, with Rahane contributing 49 runs and Dhoni putting in 39 runs.
The fourth delivery of the 14th over from Tabraiz Shamsi was a slider that went past Rahane’s wild swing without getting to the pitch of the ball and KL Rahul, from behind the stumps, dislodged the bails in a whiff.Rahane had scored 60 runs off 46 deliveries with 8 fours, while his half-century came in 37 deliveries with 7 fours.
RPS at this stage had scored 109 runs for the loss of 3 wickets in 14.4 overs, requiring 77 more runs in 5.2 overs.
Dhoni left soon after in the pen-ultimate delivery of the 16th over, when Harshal Patel had him caught by de Villiers in the long-off region but not before Dhoni had notched up 41 runs off 38 deliveries with 3 fours. Surprisingly Dhoni, known for big hits, did not hit a single sixer.A 44-run fifth-wicket partnership in 2.4 overs between Rajat Bhatia (21) and Thisarsa Perera (34) took the team score to 164 runs for the loss of 5 wickets when Perera perished in the 19 over.
RPS added another 8 more runs and ended their innings with 172 runs for the loss of 8 wickets in 20 overs. RCB won the match by 13 runs.
For his wonderful and mind blowing batting display, AB de Villiers was awarded the Player of the Match.
Speaking at the post-match presentation, de Villiers said, “It wasn”t easy to get going. I maybe got away with a couple of easy boundaries. Both my sweeps didn”t come off the middle, but went for six. But generally, I”m pleased with my performance. Their batting line-up was all class. Dhoni and Rahane took it deep, and we knew Thisara would keep us on our toes. He was striking it well. Happy that we crossed the line though.”
A visibly dejected Dhoni said. “We lost three wickets for nothing. Faf got out, then KP got injured, and Steven Smith got run-out. It was a par-plus score. With three batsmen back in, I thought the target was difficult to achieve. But I”m happy with the way we came close. KP”s injury can be a blessing in disguise. We”re playing with six bowlers, yet our death bowling isn”t great. Maybe we can look to bring in Albie Morkel or Mitch Marsh in the next game. With the kind of players we”ve got, it has always been difficult to drop someone. We need to strengthen our bowling line a bit. I feel overall with less pressure and a few more games, M Ashwin will get better. Not really fussed with these results. I personally feel, we have to improve in all three departments. We have to admit there are a few slow fielders in the team, but as long as they are safe fielders and take their catches, I can”t ask for more.”
Smartly recovering from the defeat at the hands of Mumbai Indians and ‘crossing the line’ in this game, an elated Virat Kohi said, “That was closer than we thought it would be at one stage, but good to cross the line. We were playing good cricket, it just needed composure at the right moments. But I”d like to win the toss next time! Watson showed his experience, and Kane to finish off things was quite good. It was good to see the guys not panic. We spoke about 175-180, but I wasn”t happy with myself, the way I batted after 30-35 balls, but I figured out it was important to stay in with AB. He kept me going and told me to play the anchor role, so that he could play his shots. The surface didn”t have that much bounce to hit shots at will. AB is the best batsmen in our generation. It”s a pleasure to bat alongside him. The way he communicates, he”s a selfless person. He doesn”t care about his own plans, but help people around him. He”s a better human being than a batsman. Shamsi came in a bowled really well. One guy got out of the plane and knocked us out of the T20 World Cup. So, I told him you get off the plane and knock them out. He bowled really well. Rajkot should help us better.”