Williamson special in vain as de Villiers, Moeen keep RCB alive
Royal Challengers Bangalore 218 for 6 (De Villiers 69, Moeen 65, Rashid 3-27) beat Sunrisers Hyderabad 204 for 3 (Williamson 81, Pandey 62*, Chahal 1-28). Kane Williamson’s rousing 81 off 42 balls – his eighth fifty-plus score in IPL 2018 – threatened to bring Royal Challengers Bangalore’s campaign to a screeching halt, but Mohammed Siraj defended 19 off the last over, which also included the wicket of the Sunrisers captain, to keep his team alive.
Facing an IPL record chase of 219, Sunrisers slipped to 64 for 2 in eight overs and the asking rate was nearly 13. Williamson then manipulated the fields and the bowlers expertly, bringing Sunrisers to within touching distance of a magical win. With Sunrisers needing 20 off the last over, he jumped across off stump and scooped Siraj’s first ball straight into the lap of Colin de Grandhomme at the edge of the fine leg boundary. Siraj did not quite nail his lengths but got away with four runs and a leg bye off the last five balls.
Earlier in the evening, AB de Villiers had also manipulated the fielders and bowlers expertly along with Moeen Ali in a 107-run stand off 57 balls, which formed the centerpiece of RCB’s 218 for 6.
Parthiv Patel chipped the first ball to the right of short cover, but Deepak Hooda dropped it. However, he managed only a run before Sandeep Sharma had him top-edging a pull to fine leg with the last ball of the over. Virat Kohli began with a first-ball four off Sandeep Sharma and swatted Rashid Khan to the midwicket boundary. Rashid then bounced back the next ball to bowl Kohli with a sharp googly. RCB were 44 for 2, in six overs, of which de Villiers had made 29.
De Villiers found his groove right away when he jumped outside leg, created swinging room, and cut his first ball that was only fractionally short to the right of backward point. It was a portent for how things would unfold. De Villiers slog-swept Shakib Al Hasan to the midwicket boundary and then hit back-to-back fours off Siddarth Kaul, the second of which brought him a 32-ball fifty.
It wasn’t a one-man show, however. Moeen introduced his big hits and crisp timing to the IPL. Both batsmen launched into Thampi – they took 36 off 12 balls – but it was the left-handed Moeen who was more comfortable against Rashid. He forayed down the track against a Rashid wrong’un and hoisted the ball over the long-off boundary before belting a legbreak over his head. There were some mis-hits, too, which cleared the boundary as RCB moved to 144 for 2 in 14 overs.
The last time these two teams met in Hyderabad, De Grandhomme showed signs of his power with 33 off 29 balls, threatening a jailbreak. He showed his entire range on Thursday and peppered the short boundaries at Chinnaswamy Stadium with four sixes. Not even the slower cutter was safe against him. When Thampi floated one wide outside off at 97ks, de Grandhomme reached out for the ball and scythed it flat and hard over cover. Thampi conceded 70 runs in four overs – the worst figures in the IPL. It took a blinding one-handed catch from Rashid to dismiss the New Zealand allrounder, but by then RCB had motored past 200. Sarfraz Khan also did his bit with an unbeaten 22 off 8 balls as RCB pillaged 69 off the last five overs.
Alex Hales was on 19 when he pulled Umesh Yadav flat and hard to deep square leg, where Southee dived forward and wrapped his fingers underneath the ball to claim an excellent a low catch. The soft signal was out, but TV umpire C Shamshuddin somehow ruled it not out. After adding four runs, Hales drilled Mohammed Siraj towards mid-on, where Kohli threw himself to his left but dropped the difficult catch. RCB then needed de Villiers to pluck a catch out of thin air to get rid of Hales. When the opener swatted one over midwicket, the ball seemed destined to sail over the boundary until leapt to his right, stretched out his right hand and came away with the ball. All of this done with the balance of a tightrope walker. Yuzvendra Chahal had taken a more straightforward return catch to dismiss Dhawan for 18 off 15 balls.
The highlight of Williamson’s stellar run this season has been his game awareness. That came to the fore when he cranked up the tempo and struck five boundaries in six balls after Hales’ dismissal. The pick of the boundaries was a perfectly paced shovel-flick between wide long-on and midwicket. Just like that, Williamson raised a fifty off 28 balls. By then, Manish Pandey was going at less than a run-a-ball. The re-introduction of de Grandhomme in the 15th over provided him the release. From 6 off 12 balls, he went to 21 off 16 balls with two fours and a six.
Pandey then glanced Chahal past short fine leg in the next over to help narrow the equation to 55 off 24 balls. An over full of wide yorkers from Tim Southee left Sunrisers needing 49 off 18 balls. With Williamson in imperious form, they were in with a good chance, but he faced only eight balls in the last five overs before his dismissal and Pandey could not find his timing in the end.