Royal Challengers Bangalore 171/6 in 20 overs (Virat Kohli 48 ; Murugan Ashwin 4-0-23-2) lost to Kings XI Punjab 177/2 in 20 overs (KL Rahul 61*, Chris Gayle 53, Mayank Agarwal 45) by 8 wickets
Did RCB just look at this game as a chance to experiment? It was against the bottom-placed team in the table and perhaps they thought they could get away with it, which they almost did.
Devdutt Padikkal, and Aaron Finch started off briskly, which Virat Kohli maintaining the scoring rate once he came to the crease. Washington Sundar, inexplicably, came on to bat at number 4 instead of AB de Villiers, allowing KXIP to work their way into the match. That was not the only surprise that RCB’s batting lineup sprung, as Shivam Dube too came before de Villiers.
RCB lost most of its momentum in the middle overs, and looked to be aiming for a score around 150 before Chris Morris’ cameo ensured a more respectable total.
In response, KXIP’s openers and the two highest run-getters in this tournament stitched together another solid partnership. Mayank Agarwal led the way as the aggressor, with KL Rahul playing the anchor role. It was a surprise that Punjab opted to keep its opening pair intact with ‘Universe Boss’ Chris Gayle coming in at three. There was no Gayle storm of the old, but glimpses were certainly there. A couple of sixes were sent outside the ground onto the road, just as Gayle used to do regularly in Bengaluru, sending the balls to the adjoining Queens Road and Cubbon Park.
It isn’t a KXIP match if they don’t somehow take it until the last ball when the game should have been won a couple of overs prior. They generally lose after taking it too deep, but for once managed to win. Needing two off the last over, Gayle and Rahul could only get one off the first five deliveries, and even losing the former to a run out on the penultimate ball. It took immense guts for Nicholas Pooran to go for a six off the last ball (and his first ball) knowing that a single would have been enough.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Never has the highest run scorer of a tournament been criticized as much. Rahul has faced criticisms from all ends of the spectrum, for his strike rate and his captaincy. Punjab’s fans must be having a tough time this season, not just due to their place on the table but the manner in which they keep losing. Today too, they looked tentative in the last three overs. Rahul, and by extension the rest of his team bat like a team that has forgotten to win towards the end. But they somehow managed to get over the line this time, and Rahul continued his march towards the Orange Cap.
De Villiers walking in at six?
De Villiers has a legitimate claim to being the greatest T20 batsman of all time. No matter how you look at it, it is difficult to justify RCB’s decision of pushing him down the order especially with him being in red-hot form. He is not your quintessential hitter that cannot be tasked with building your innings. Where other players would be close to a run-a-ball, he can play the anchor role while striking at 140. Sundar and Dube might have been brought on to negate the leg spinners, and it would be a fair tactic most of the time, but not when it is at the expense of de Villiers. That was ultimately what cost RCB the match.
Holding out Washington Sundar for Chris Gayle
Sundar has been bowling barely believable spells in the powerplay. Why then would you refuse to use him in the powerplays entirely? Gayle’s troubles against off spinners is well known, but did RCB need to hold out all four overs of Sundar for Gayle? Punjab instead got off to a flyer, with Yuzvendra Chahal bearing the brunt of the onslaught. This onslaught could have been avoided by giving Sundar a couple of overs at the start.
WHO DO THEY FACE NEXT
Rajasthan Royals vs Royal Challengers Bangalore on October 17th (Saturday) at Dubai
Mumbai Indians vs Kings XI Punjab on October 18th (Sunday) at Dubai