Thu, 25 Apr 2019

Kohli, de Villiers mastery trump Gayle's 99

ESPNCricInfo
14 Apr 2019, 05:42 GMT+10

3:00 AM ET

Royal Challengers Bangalore 174 for 2 (Kohli 67, de Villiers 59*, Ashwin 1-30) beat Kings XI Punjab 173 for 4 (Gayle 99*, Chahal 2-33, Moeen 1-19) by eight wickets

Royal Challengers Bangalore finally found reason to smile in IPL 2019, breaking a sequence of six consecutive defeats with their first victory of the season, an eight-wicket victory against Kings XI Punjab in Mohali.

Like several Royal Challengers wins in the past, this was built on the batting combine of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, though the choke the spinners applied in the middle overs after Chris Gayle had rocketed off played its part too. Kohli made a 53-ball 67, while de Villiers was unbeaten on 59 off 38. The win wasn't achieved without a scare, as Royal Challengers saw a comfortable equation of 57 off 42 go to 38 off 18, before de Villiers and Marcus Stoinis biffed the ball around to seal the win.

Kohli and de Villiers's knocks put to shade Gayle's 99 not out, with the Kings XI opener becoming only the second batsman in IPL history to end not out while one short of his century, alongside Kohli. Suresh Raina and Prithvi Shaw have both been out on 99 in the IPL. Kings XI also let themselves down with their fielding, dropped catches and sloppy out-fielding making the task tougher for themselves. The dew that set in during the second half didn't help.

Gayle's start-stop-start innings

The Gayle template for a T20 innings has stayed largely the same over several years. Start slowly, get your bearings, and then make fielders and/or boundaries irrelevant. In this game though, Gayle flipped things around, with circumstances dictating it to some extent.

Gayle blasted off at the start, first taking a shine to Umesh Yadav, and then dismantling Mohammed Siraj. At the end of the Powerplay, Gayle was on 48 off 23. Kohli then turned to his spin duo of Yuzvendra Chahal and Moeen Ali, and the Kings XI momentum ground to a halt. In the middle overs, till the end of the 16th, Gayle could add only 20 more runs in 27 balls. He picked up the pace again at the death, not coincidentally with the pacers back in operation, and smashed 31 off his last 14 balls.

The Gayle slowdown mirrored his team's innings, with only 67 runs coming in the 10 overs after the Powerplay had yielded 60. The last four overs brought 46.

The Chahal-Moeen choke

Chahal came on to bowl immediately after the Powerplay and was greeted by a huge six with KL Rahul dancing down the crease and sending him over long-off. He tried to repeat that next ball, but Chahal hung it back just a bit and got it to dip and turn past him for an easy stumping.

Chahal would repeat that six and out sequence with Mayank Agarwal too. Having seen one smoked over extra cover with whippy wrist-work, he bowled the ball of the match. It made a nice arc, sending Agarwal on the back foot, before drifting and dipping and then whizzing past to knock off stump. Agarwal was left squared up, looking completely lost.

Moeen, meanwhile, bowled all four overs in one spell, and conceded only one boundary. None of the batsmen were able to get on top of his bowling, and with only 19 runs given in his four overs, he was the one who established the middle-overs strangle that stalled Kings XI.

Kohli, de Villiers take charge

Kohli looked assured from the start, settling into the chase with two peachy boundaries off Mohammed Shami in the second over. For the first half of the Royal Challengers innings, it was a typical Kohli chase, with the batsman looking in control and the asking rate never galloping too far away. The latter half of the middle overs saw the chase dawdle a little, but just when it looked like Royal Challengers would have another heartbreak with Kohli getting out, de Villiers seized the baton and ran with it.

De Villiers had begun in his usual busy fashion but was chugging along without quite exploding. When Kohli fell though, he seamlessly shifted gears. There was a slapped six off Andrew Tye when the equation was getting steeper and a trademark de Villiers slog-paddle-sweep off Shami that ensured only six runs would be needed off the final over. In between he ran the twos swiftly.

It's not often that the chasing team finds itself on the losing side when de Villiers stays unbeaten. It had happened against Mumbai Indians earlier this season, but there was no way de Villiers was going to let it happen a second time.

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