The mighty hand of Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) skipper Virat Kohli pulled the franchise out of the hole and to a memorable victory over Rising Pune Supergiants here on Saturday.
Kohli (108 n.o., 58b, 8x4, 7x6) steered the home side to its third win in eight outings, while M.S. Dhoni and Pune fell to seventh loss in 10 games.
RCB needed something special to kick-start a struggling campaign, and Kohli was the man to do it. During the course of his stupendous effort, he became the only player to make two centuries in a single IPL season.
The 27-year-old carried his bat to take RCB past Supergiants’ 192-run target with three balls to spare. With a flick to the square-leg fence, Kohli had made amends for failing to get his team over the hump against Sunrisers Hyderabad, in a similarly stiff chase a week ago.
This time around, Kohli ensured that he paced his knock to perfection. He did not start with a bang, but exploded towards the final stages of the encounter. At one stage, RCB needed a daunting 89 from 42 balls, but the RCB captain made the task look easy.
Rival skipper M.S. Dhoni, meanwhile, used R. Ashwin for just the one over. Fellow spinner, Adam Zampa, stated later that the absence of left-handers in the RCB batting line-up took Ashwin out of the equation.
Put in to bat, Pune rode on a 106-run second-wicket partnership between Ajinkya Rahane (74, 48b) and Saurabh Tiwary (52, 39b). The duo came together after Rahane sold Usman Khawaja down the river, leaving both batsmen stranded at the same end.
While Rahane was all style and grace, Tiwary took a more forceful approach. They were, however, helped along by some shoddy work by the RCB fielders. One sequence, in particular, defied belief. In the seventh over — bowled by pacer Varun Aaron — the southpaw gifted two regulation catches on the drive off successive deliveries. Stuart Binny and Sachin Baby both failed to hold on, drawing a collective groan from the crowd.
In Aaron’s next over, it was Rahane who benefitted. A leading edge saw the ball fall between mid-wicket fielder, Watson, and the bowler, as neither player committed to the catch.
Rahane went on to record his sixth fifty of the tournament. His exceptional form was highlighted by a back-foot drive off Parvez Rasool, who followed the Mumbaikar outside leg-stump only to have it dismissed to the cover boundary.
The RCB bowling, under much scrutiny this season, failed to deliver once again. English paceman Chris Jordan, who was expected to spearhead the attack, leaked 43 runs in his four overs. Watson proved to be the exception, employing clever variations to record figures of three for 24. The Australian followed this effort with a 13-ball 36 with the bat — a vital innings which cleared the deck for Kohli’s launch.