A sunny evening at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, a bone dry pitch and a new IPL team. Change the date, team and the tormentor’s name. If Pune Warriors were left in a state of shock by the storm called Chris Gayle, this was a brutal double assault by Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers against Gujarat Lions.
Ultimately, Royal Challengers Bangalore ended up with 15 less than the total against Pune three years ago. But while that one-sided tie resembled more like a baseball game, this was like a tennis match for the spectator sitting at cover-point boundary. The 100-run partnership used up 60 deliveries while the next 100 came in 30 balls. This match had actually started with just three runs in the first two overs!
The biggest change from that 2013 match though was Gayle. Wearing a shirt that had 175 --- his score in that match --- Gayle opened the face of his bat at the last moment to fetch his only boundary. But he chopped Dhawal Kulkarni’s ball on to his stumps to make way for de Villiers. Till then, Kohli looked a little fidgety, trying to go for boundaries after Kulkarni kept probing the line just outside off where he was drawn into an edge twice in the last two matches.
Kohli finally drew first blood, carving Praveen Kumar over point for a much-needed first boundary in the third over. Runs started trickling in the fifth over by S Kaushik. He has a mysterious action but was flat, short and hardly produced any turn. Kohli whipped him through covers for a four and de Villiers warmed up with a huge six over the same region.
De Villiers sometimes found it difficult to deliveries that were arrowed into him. It explained Ravindra Jadeja’s early success but de Villiers took little time to adjust his stance to give him the stick later. By the time Kulkarni returned after a successful two-over spell, where he conceded just 11 and took one wicket, Kohli was ready to pick on him.
He danced down the pitch and deposited the first delivery over long-on for a six. It prompted Dinesh Karthik to come up the stumps but de Villiers stayed back in his crease to pull him for another six. Two more boundaries off the next two deliveries, and not only were RCB in full flow but had also crossed the 100-run mark in the 12th over. When five overs were left in the innings, de Villiers’ rotator cuff started working overtime.
Firmly parking his right leg in the crease, he started manufacturing shots so audacious that the shoulders of the Lions’ bowlers drooped in no time. Praveen, their most consistent bowler so far, was first swept out of the stadium. It led to so many boundaries and sixes that after a point, there was no use keeping count.
Kohli too played great catch-up. Batting on 65 after the 18th over, he shredded Kaushik’s confidence by milking him for 30 runs in the 19th over. Two more sixes off Praveen’s next over and Kohli took its final count to 20, compared to just 16 boundaries.