First things first. Royal Challengers Bangalore’s Virat Kohli averted a hat-trick of first-ball ‘duck’, though he nearly fell for a third consecutive zero. However, his rough patch continued as he fell for nine against Rajasthan Royals in Pune on Tuesday.
Kohli’s dismissal triggered a top-order collapse from where RCB did not recover and eventually went down to RR by 29 runs. RR’s sixth win in eight matches take them to the top of the table with 12 points, pushing Gujarat Titans to second on Net Run Rate (RR has 0.561 and GT 0.396)
RCB batsmen failed to complement the tidy work of their bowlers, who did well to contain RR to 144 for eight, the lowest total in Pune this year. Until RCB’s 115 all out during the run chase made it the worse, that is.
RR found their heroes in lesser-known players, Riyan Parag taking four catches to add to his 56 not out while right-arm medium-pacer Kuldeep Sen picking up four wickets for 20 runs including those of Faf du Plessis and Glenn Maxwell off successive deliveries in his first over.
After being dismissed for a first-ball nought in each of his previous two innings, Kohli, opening with captain Faf du Plessis, found another way of getting out. He nearly fell for a third-ball zero, the ball falling just short of the short-square leg fielder Daryl Mitchell. Two successive fours, one a flick and the other, an inside edge very narrowly missing the stumps, in the same over may have eased the former India captain a bit.
But, off the next over sent down by Prasidh Krishna, Kohli’s attempted pull took the bottom edge of the bat and went to point, where Riyan Parag did well to dive forward and complete a smart catch. Kohli’s fifth single-digit score in eight innings took his tournament aggregate to 128 runs at 16.00.
RCB’s hopes of a win rested on their skipper du Plessis and Maxwell but both falling off successive deliveries in the seventh over of the innings by Sen brought RR back in the hunt.
Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin’s strikes in the middle overs and the crucial run out of Dinesh Karthik after Yuzvendra Chahal fumbled with the collection but managed to have his hand on the ball while breaking the stumps left RCB at 72 for six, from where they could not do much to force a win.
Earlier, opting to bowl, RCB bowlers did a commendable job to restrict RR. It was a remarkable comeback by a team that was shot out for 68 in their previous match. Credit should go first to Indian quick bowler Md Siraj and then to the combined efforts of Australian speedster Josh Hazlewood and Sri Lanka leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga.
Though Siraj gave away runs in his opening spell with Ashwin, promoted to No. 3 hitting him for four fours, he took wickets in each of his first two overs. In fact, Siraj had a hand in each of the first three wickets, removing left-hander Padikkal with a yorker length and trapping him leg before wicket. It was a sweet revenge for the pacer as Padikkal hit him straight for a six off his first delivery. In his second over, Siraj avenged Ashwin smashing him for fours by bowling a short one and the right-hander top-edged for the bowler himself to take a return catch.
Siraj’s celebrations became wilder when he took the low catch, inches off the ground at mid-on, to remove the century-hitter Jos Buttler in Hazlewood’s second over. Buttler fell for eight, his first single-digit score in the tournament.
With three wickets for 43 including a wicket-maiden in Power Play, RCB had gained the upper hand. The pitch was not that difficult to score off. It was more to do with the shot selections of the RR batsmen combined with tidy line and length of RCB bowlers.
RR skipper, Sanju Samson, was looking good before throwing it away with a poor shot for 27 (21 balls, 1x4, 3x6). His first boundary shot was pure placement off Hasaranga past point while three sixes on the off-side gave indications that he was in for a big score.
But two back-to-back reverse sweeps against Hasaranga brought about his downfall. In the innings’ 10th over, Samson missed one reverse sweep to a ball that was outside the off-stump. The next delivery, Hasaranga altered the line, brought the ball around the off-stump area and Samson went for the same stroke, only to miss and be bowled.
RR total was boosted by a second career IPL half-century by Parag (56 not out, 30b, 3x4, 4x6), 30 of his runs coming in the last two overs including 18 off the final over off Harshal Patel.