Royal Challengers Bangalore 202 for 4 (de Villiers 82*, Stoinis 46*) beat Kings XI Punjab 185 for 7 (Pooran 46, Rahul 42, Umesh 3-36) by 17 runs
It was the sort of game that exemplified both why Royal Challengers Bangalore can be so dangerous, and exactly why they find themselves struggling the way they are. A knock of ferocity from AB de Villiers - an unbeaten 82 of 44 - led the side to a 17-run victory over Kings XI Punjab, their fourth win in five matchesto keep their playoff hopes alive. Royal Challengers had been behind the eight ball for most of the first innings, after R Ashwin had put them in to bat, but de Villiers and Marcus Stoinis savaged 64 off the last three overs, and out of nowhere they had surged to 202 and taken charge of a game that had till then been controlled by Kings XI.
A middle-overs collapse, three wickets falling for the addition of ten runs, had set Royal Challengers back before de Villiers and Stoinis put on 121 for the fifth wicket, aided by Kings XI losing their discipline as the carnage amplified in intensity.
Lost control was a major theme for a disappointed R Ashwin at the end, with Kings XI clinical in their approach to the chase in the first nine overs, only for two quick wickets to send the asking rate surging once more. From that point on, getting to the target always seemed a bridge too far. Nicholas Pooran's five sixes gave Royal Challengers one last fright, but de Villiers' brilliance had ensured his side had plenty of runs to play with, and plenty of momentum going into the final three games.
Devastating de Villiers
The only weakness of de Villiers' game is that he showcases his ability so often that it doesn't quite carry the novelty that it would with a player less divinely endowed. Cherish it now, though, or repent at leisure. Even with the hyperinflation in the currency of T20 run-scoring, it's likely to be a while before such an audacious, improbably gifted cricketer comes along to treat cricket fans the way this South African has been doing for over a decade. He may have hung up his international gloves but with Royal Challengers, de Villiers has been a rare bright spark in a difficult season. He came in today and watched the Royal Challengers dig themselves into a hole - don't they often? - before launching a counter-offensive so lethal it made Kings XI forget the basic rules of T20 death bowling.
They fed him the ball in the slot, they threw in full-tosses both low and high, and they pitched the ball on a good length. It was meat and drink for de Villiers, with Mohammed Shami and Hardus Viljoen bearing the brunt of the bombardment as the Kings XI leaked an eye-watering 64 runs in the final three overs. In comparison, Kings XI managed a paltry 14 runs in their own final three overs, and in the absence of a freak like de Villiers, that 50-run disparity was simply too large to overcome.
The extra bowling options
Yesterday, Sunrisers Hyderabad suffered for want of a sixth bowler, and Royal Challengers demonstrated the value of extra options to turn to. Kings XI had amassed 101 in the first nine overs, and with nine wickets still in the bag appeared odds on to gun down 203. But with his frontline bowlers struggling, Kohli had the luxury of turning to Marcus Stoinis and Moeen Ali. Stoinis struck with the first ball of his second over, getting rid of Mayank Agarwal, who along with Chris Gayle and KL Rahul had been responsible for the flying start Kings XI made.
The very next over, Moeen dismissed Rahul with his first ball, bringing two new men to the crease. It coincided with a rising asking rate that would never quite go back down to pre-bowling-change levels, and with seven bowlers in their arsenal, Royal Challengers had enough saved for their frontline bowlers at the business end.
R Ashwin's misfortune
There were several Kings XI players - mostly batsmen - who ill-deserved to be on the losing side today, but none can be as disappointed as the captain R Ashwin. In a game dominated by the big hitting of de Villiers, Stoinis, Gayle and Pooran, Ashwin kept his figures tighter than the taxman's purse. Sure, three of the overs he bowled came in the middle as Royal Challengers looked to rebuild following a mini-collapse, but he didn't go for a single boundary in his entire spell, and got rid of Moeen Ali with a magical arm ball that slammed into middle stump.
It exposed the home side's lower middle order, and Ashwin was brave enough to save himself for a final over towards the end just when de Villiers might be warming up. He returned for the 17th over, giving away just five as RCB's innings looked to peter out. He might have given away just 15 in his four, but the 64 that came off the following three more than undid all his good work.