KKR bowl first; de Villiers out sick, Southee comes in for RCB

AB de Villiers was excluded from Royal Challengers Bangalore’s side due to a viral fever in what is a crucial game for them against Kolkata Knight Riders in Bengaluru. Dinesh Karthik, Knight Riders’ captain, chose to bowl first, given the level of difficulty with defending targets at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium. Royal Challengers made four changes after their loss to Chennai Super Kings. Tim Southee was brought in to bolster their death-bowling resources. Batsmen Brendon McCullum and Manan Vohra and legspinner M Ashwin, playing his first game this season, were also included. Washington Sundar, Pawan Negi, de Villiers and Corey Anderson were left out. De Villiers was Royal Challengers’ highest run-scorer this season so far. “We wanted to bowl first too because it’s a difficult ground to defend,” Royal Challengers captain Virat Kohli said. “Not a bad toss to lose actually, it looks better than I thought. Our bowlers have put it [losing to CSK] behind us.” Knight Riders made no changes to the side that was comprehensively beaten by Delhi Daredevils in their previous game. An interesting second half of the season could be at stake. If Royal Challengers win, both teams will have three wins in seven games. If Knight Riders continue the trend of successful chases at this ground, a clear gulf between the top and bottom half could start to form.

Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), 2 Manan Vohra, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Brendon McCullum, 5 Mandeep Singh, 6 Colin de Grandhomme, 7 M Ashwin, 8 Tim Southee, 9 Mohammed Siraj, 10 Umesh Yadav, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal

Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Chris Lynn, 2 Sunil Narine, 3 Robin Uthappa, 4 Nitish Rana, 5 Dinesh Karthik (capt, wk), 6 Andre Russell, 7 Shubman Gill, 8 Piyush Chawla, 9 Mitchell Johnson, 10 Kuldeep Yadav, 11 Shivam Mavi

Kolkata Knight Riders 176 for 4 (Lynn 62, Uthappa 36) beat Royal Challengers Bangalore 175 for 4 (Kohli 68*, McCullum 38, Russell 3-31) by six wickets. Kolkata Knight Riders gained two influential advantages without a ball bowled in Bengaluru. First, Dinesh Karthik chose to bowl at a favourable chasing ground. Then, Knight Riders found out that AB de Villiers was out with a viral fever. Both those factors had a decisive impact as Knight Riders chased down 176 with relative ease, with five balls to spare, consigning Royal Challengers to their fifth loss in seven games. Without their highest run-scorer of the season, Royal Challengers had to employ a less attacking approach, aiming for par or slightly above instead of a 200-plus score, like they did in the previous game against Chennai Super Kings after losing the toss. All they could manage is 175 – the par score in day-night games at this ground was 172 in the IPL since 2015 – even with a terrific, 44-ball 68 from Virat Kohli.

Brendon McCullum was rushed into the XI after de Villiers’ sickness. Quinton de Kock, despite coming off a half-century in the previous game, hadn’t quite found his fluency. For Royal Challengers’ batting line-up, weakened significantly by the loss of their highest run-scorer this season, a strong start was imperative, at least in terms of resources in hand. Therefore, McCullum and de Kock scored 40 runs in the Powerplay, 11 runs below their average score in the period this season. McCullum soon found his hitting rhythm, with two fours and two sixes in two overs after the Powerplay, lifting the scoring rate to over eight. Soon after the time-out, though, Royal Challengers lost their way. De Kock holed out to deep cover. McCullum toe-ended a pull to the keeper. Two balls later, Manan Vohra was bowled off the inside edge. A score of 67 for 0 quickly turned to 75 for 3.

De Villiers’ absence also hampered Kohli’s scoring template. Aware that his presence in the death overs could marginally increase the utility of Royal Challengers’ score, Kohli was cautious early in his innings. He took 18 balls to score 20, but with Royal Challengers at 100 for 3 in 14 overs at that point, Kohli couldn’t wait longer. Royal Challengers hit nine boundaries in six overs thereon; Kohli hit six of them. Royal Challengers scored 75 from there; Kohli hit 48 of them. His innings included three sixes, two of which were a direct result of a strong bottom hand through the line of the ball, hit in the arc between long-on and deep midwicket. Royal Challengers had 175, a score that seemed below par given the ground dimensions.

Before the start of the chase, Knight Riders’ target of 176 – one less than the score Royal Challengers needed to beat Delhi Daredevils earlier this season and one more than the score Knight Riders needed in the reverse fixture against Royal Challengers at the Eden Gardens – seemed insufficient. Lynn and Narine made a strong start before a rain interruption that lasted 30 minutes. Then, with Knight Riders seemingly in control, the game drifted on with the illusion of control. Royal Challengers made a strong comeback in that period, including having Andre Russell caught for a golden duck on his 30th birthday. The equation by then came down to 43 off 24 balls. But just when the game seemed in the balance, Knight Riders broke the chase open, much like those two previous games Royal Challengers were involved in.