Royal Challengers Bangalore187 for 5 (de Villiers 72*, Kohli 70) beat Delhi Daredevils 181 for 4 (Pant 61, Abhishek 46*, Chahal 2-28) by five wickets
Royal Challengers Bangalore faced some tough moments against a Delhi Daredevils team that had five players under the age of 24 in a must-win game, but were guided to a comfortable win by their experienced stalwarts Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers. It was Royal Challengers' sixth consecutive win at the Feroz Shah Kotla and it knocked Daredevils - who needed three wins from three to reach the par-tally of 12 points - out of contention for the playoffs.
Kohli and de Villiers combined to make 142 of the 182 runs Royal Challengers needed to win after a whirlwind 46 not out from 17-year-old debutant Abhishek Sharma had dragged the home team back into the game after Rishabh Pant's relatively early dismissal for 61. Daredevils even managed to follow this with two early Royal Challengers wickets in the Powerplay, but were powerless after that as the chase was completed with an over to spare.
A bowling strategy works for Royal Challengers
Daredevils are the one team Royal Challengers have managed to dominate when bowling in the Powerplay. When they last met, Yuzvendra Chahal weaved webs around Jason Roy before sneaking one through and dismissing him for 5 off 16. Daredevils had made the then-lowest Powerplay score of the season, of 28 for 2.
There was no doubt Chahal would be handed the new ball if Daredevils went with Roy over Colin Munro. They did. And Chahal bowled the first over.
In the bargain, Royal Challengers inadvertently exploited a weakness in Roy's partner too. Prithvi Shaw had been dismissed by a spinner every time he had faced one this season. That pattern continued and it became five dismissals against spin in seven innings for the 18-year-old. Roy was done by a googly in Chahal's next over and Royal Challengers had a reasonable Powerplay again. Daredevils were 44 for 2.
Another bowling failure follows
But, like last time, Royal Challengers were denied further momentum by the pair of Shreyas Iyer and Pant. More so the latter, in this case. Pant was characteristically unaesthetic against pace early on, but a slew of short offerings set him up nicely to break the shackles in the eighth over, when Mohammed Siraj's pace accentuated the width he was also giving: the result was two sixes off consecutive deliveries.
Pant's next six came three overs later off Moeen Ali, who had an otherwise productive time against the left-handed batsman. The six was a hurried slog sweep and it was a similar shot off the last ball of Moeen's spell that accounted for the IPL's top-scorer this season, completed with a tumble at wide long-on by de Villiers.
Iyer seemed to be playing a deliberately watchful innings to make up for a thin middle order. And if Pant's dismissal in the 13th over had wiped runs off of Daredevils' final score, Iyer's scratchy partnership with Vijay Shankar and tame end at the start of the 16th over - for 32 off 35 - amplified those effects.
Except, the relative mystery around the left-handed 17-year old who came in at No. 6 caught Royal Challengers off guard. Abhishek was fed a length ball outside off first up from Siraj and he launched it over mid-off with no fuss. Siraj then dropped the teenager at third man in the next over. It got him four runs too, before 12 off the next two.
A belligerent Abhishek was then offered the chance to play more of his favourite shot - the punch on the up - through some more generous length bowling. He lifted Daredevils, whose No. 7 was likely to be Harshal Patel, to a more than challenging total.
The knockout punch
Royal Challengers promoted Moeen to open alongside Parthiv Patel, but they were both dismissed inside the first three overs. Parthiv fell to Nepal legspinner - another 17-year-old debutant on the night - Sandeep Lamichhane, who bowled a sufficiently slow pace on a pitch that offered turn.
But Daredevils found no control at the other end. In the very next over after Parthiv fell, Junior Dala was given a hammering by Kohli, who took a liking to the fast bowler's skid and angle into him by first whipping a six wide of long-on, and then going against the angle next ball to punch him wide of mid-off. It was a sign of the complete dominance to come.
In de Villiers' company, Kohli played out Lamichhane and the pair put on a 118-run stand that featured at least a boundary every over. Kohli fell with Royal Challengers 46 runs away, and it was de Villiers' cue to start hopping about the crease laterally to open up new gaps - including his favoured one over short fine leg.
De Villiers hit six sixes on the night, one more than his five during his unbeaten 90 against Daredevils that had sealed a win with two overs to spare last time round. And while the same force wasn't on display on Saturday, the intent to see them through to the end was. He did it with a clean lofted drive off Trent Boult. Royal Challengers are now mathermatically capable of hitting 14 points and making a late entry into the playoffs.