De Villiers magic powers RCB to thumping win
Royal Challengers Bangalore 176 for 4 (De Villiers 90*, Kohli 30) beat Delhi Daredevils 174 for 5 (Pant 85, Iyer 52, Chahal 2-22) by six wickets. AB de Villiers had been threatening to fire. On Saturday, when he finally did, there was elation and relief in equal measure for Royal Challengers Bangalore. Their bowlers in particular have borne the brunt of some stunning assaults this season. Here, they watched one of their own give back, and in some style. Conventions and text-book cricket was thrown out of the window, out came the dash of the unorthodox to ensure the Chinnaswamy was one giant party that went home singing RCB hymns. De Villiers’ unbeaten 39-ball 90, on a surface where there was grip and turn for the spinners, lifted Royal Challengers to their second win. For Delhi Daredevils, rooted to the bottom of the table with just one win in five games, there was some consolation. Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer, two men they retained ahead of the auction, made destructive half-centuries to lift Daredevils from 58 for 2, the lowest 10-over score this season, to a competitive 174. Unfortunately, their bowlers delivered neatly-wrapped gifts to de Villiers and saw their defence turn cold 15 overs into the chase.
Jason Roy had been out 12 times in 22 T20s to legspinners prior to Saturday, so in throwing the ball to Yuzvendra Chahal in the Powerplay, Virat Kohli targeted that weakness straightaway. After beating Roy with two legbreaks that turned square, Chahal owned him with a flipper that skid through. Roy, who was tempted to back away and cut, was beaten for pace as the ball crashed into the stumps. Gautam Gambhir, one of the better players against spin, didn’t give himself a chance on this track, and was out mistiming a pull to square leg. Daredevils played out 22 dot balls and limped to 28 for 2, the lowest Powerplay score this season. Chahal’s two tight overs that went for just 11 set Royal Challengers up nicely.
Umesh Yadav has begun well in each of the four previous games. In two of these games, he has picked up a wicket, sometimes two like he did against Mumbai Indians, in his first over. No concerns there. His end-overs bowling, however, hasn’t been high quality so far, but then which Royal Challengers bowler’s has? Against Rajasthan Royals in Royal Challengers’ previous home game, Umesh conceded 40 off his last two overs in the death. Off the five final overs he has bowled this season, Umesh went for 77. So Kohli countered the move by bowling him out inside 10 overs. His spell of 4-0-27-1 put even more pressure on Daredevils.
That Daredevils overcame a slow first half to wallop 116 off the next 10 was down to Pant and Iyer’s 49-ball 75 stand. Pant started with a wallop through extra cover, while Iyer, who strikes at less than 100 for his first 10 deliveries, began with two sparkling strokes. Where Gambhir struggled for timing, these two were calculative initially, and began to open up slowly. By bowling out Umesh and with Washington Sundar finishing three overs by the 12th over, RCB depended on Chris Woakes and Mohammed Siraj to man the death overs. This move didn’t pay off. The surge started when Iyer swatted Sundar for two towering leg-side sixes in his final over en route a 29-ball half-century.
Pant was all muscle to begin with, particularly the lofted hits he cleanly smacked over the ropes on either side of the ‘V’. He also brought out the ramps and reverse sweep to raise his half-century off 34 balls. Then he smashed two sixes and two fours, with the last 24 deliveries going for 57. Amid the carnage, Kohli left Chahal’s one over unutilised despite assistance for the slower bowlers. His eventual figures of 2 for 22 stood out, even as the rest of the bowlers went for plenty.
Manan Vohra, replacing the out-of-form Sarfaraz Khan, was out top-edging a sweep in the second over. Quinton de Kock sacrificed his wicket after a horrendous mix-up with Kohli. Royal Challengers needed their two superstars to bail them out. De Villiers has been noticeably faster off the blocks this season, going at a first-ten-ball strike rate of nearly 170. Over the past three seasons, that figure was 126.7. Surely he wouldn’t bat that way with the side needing a repair job? Wrong.
Within three balls of his arrival in the fifth over, he changed the mood with two boundaries off Shahbaz Nadeem. In the left-arm spinner’s next over, de Villiers improvised to open up the leg side to play three brutal sweeps to truly rev up the chase. He hardly mistimed deliveries, found his spot at will and brought out an array of high-quality strokes that were difficult to match.
Not even Kohli’s wicket for 30, to some Trent Boult brilliance through a perfectly-timed leap and a one-handed snatch inches from the deep-square leg fence, helped despite Royal Challengers needing 83 off 54 balls. The audacity in de Villiers’ strokes lay in how he casually swept medium-pacer Harshal Patel into the stands at deep-square leg. His South Africa team-mate Chris Morris wasn’t spared either. All this meant whatever happened at the other end, including missed run outs and leg stumps being sent for a cartwheel, was just a sideshow.