As far as the final league game in IPL-9 was concerned, the situation was pretty straight forward. The winner of the duel between the Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Delhi Daredevils would qualify for the playoffs, while the loser would bow out. For the RCB, though, a win would catapult them to the second spot in the rankings, thanks to their superior net run-rate. This would also mean Virat Kohli’s team would play the first qualifier. Judging by the relative ease in which the RCB have gunned down humongous totals in the past, it did not come as a surprise when Kohli won the toss and asked the Daredevils to take first strike. The last time the Daredevils squared up against the RCB, they registered a comprehensive win, thanks to a belligerent century from Quinton De Kock. The home side were hoping for another encore.
De Kock has been pretty prolific for the Daredevils this IPL, but inexplicably, he has struggled while batting first. Even that match-winning ton against Bangalore came when Delhi were chasing. He would address this anomaly tonight. De Kock began his essay with an exquisite clip shot off his legs off Stuart Binny. Even the early dismissal of Rishabh Pant did little to dent De Kock’s confidence. A crisply timed straight drive off Chris Jordan was followed by another neatly timed six off Aravind. De Kock’s impetus upfront, gave Delhi the platform to build upon. The in-form Karun Nair’s dismissal — courtesy a brilliant running catch in the long off boundary by RCB captain Virat Kohli triggered a middle-order collapse for Delhi. After the Powerplay, Daredevils were in a spot of bother at 2/43. De Kock, however, continued with his superlative exhibition of batsmanship. He was extremely productive on the square-leg area, bringing in the wristy flicks to good effect. He continued piling on the runs, while as wickets began to tumble around him. He brought up a well compiled fifty, but in the scheme of things, he was running out of partners and patience. Once he departed for 60, it was pretty much over.
Spin it to win it
For a major part of IPL 9, the bowling had been RCB’s main concern. Despite having a heavy duty batting line-up, they faltered at crucial junctures in the tournament, thanks to their listless bowling. However, their resurgence towards the second half of this IPL has also been propelled by their leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal. Despite getting smacked during the early stages of the competition, skipper Virat Kohli persisted with him and invariably used him as an attacking option. The leggie, on his part, delivered for his captain — picking up 8 scalps in the three games leading to this one. More often than not, he would be introduced before Powerplay when the opposition batters are looking to seize the initiative from you. Even tonight, he kept his cool against the onslaught from De Kock.
That man Kohli again
Virat Kohli is clearly the man of the tournament so far. His almost peerless display has galvanised the sagging spirits of RCB after the half-way stage. Some time back, reaching the playoffs looked like a distant dream for the RCB.
Reeling after five losses from seven games, their spirits were clearly deflated. The skipper announced his intentions pretty clearly, smacking four exquisitely crafted tons.
At Raipur, Bangalore needed to peel off just 139 runs to cement their place in the playoffs. The script once again had that eerily familiar pattern, which the RCB fans had gotten used to seeing over the last 45 days. Gayle walked back early, after chopping one onto his stumps off the bowling of Chris Morris. AB joined his skipper, but he too departed cheaply. Chasing 139, Bangalore were 2/19 after three overs. AB’s dismissal was followed by the all-familiar rearguard action from Kohli. Along with KL Rahul, he added 77 runs for the third wicket, which proved to be the cornerstone for RCB’s chase.
Rahul departed for 38 — a delightful innings punctuated by some delightful cover drives. Shane Watson, who walked in after Rahul’s dismissal found it tough against Delhi’s Amit Mishra. The burly Aussie’s stay was torturous, but with a smallish total to chase down and with assurance of Kohli, the RCB never really looked in trouble. In the end, the captain sealed it off with yet another fifty, taking his personal tally this season to more than 900 runs.
Brief scores: Delhi 138/8 in 20 overs (Q de Kock 60 off 52, C Morris 27 off 18, Y Chahal 3/32, C Gayle 2/11) lost to Bangalore 139/4 in 18.1 overs (Virat Kohli 54* off 45, KL Rahul 38 off 23, C Brathwaite 1/18, Z Khan 1/30) by six wickets
(Reprinted: Indian Express)