AB de Villiers’ construction of a T20 innings can be a matter of detailed analysis. Yes, it’s a known fact that the South African possesses a vast array of shots but to sweep a yorker off a medium pacer Sandeep Sharma for six takes special talent, hand-eye coordination and faith in your ability.
His ability with the bat and the acceleration he provided proved to be the difference in Royal Challengers Bangalore’s thrilling one-run win over Kings XI Punjab on Monday.
As RCB, who again benched Chris Gayle, wobbled after quick strikes from Kings XI Punjab spinners KC Cariappa and Axar Patel who accounted for KL Rahul, Virat Kohli and Shane Watson in the space of eight balls, the onus of getting to a decent total fell on AB.
He did exactly that and with a target of 176, RCB bowlers, who have leaked runs aplenty in this tournament, had a score to defend. Despite Murali Vijay’s lone battle with an 89 off 57 balls and a late charge by Marcus Stoinis, who made an unbeaten 34 off 22 balls, RCB bowlers kept their wits about as Kings XI fell agonisingly short.
De Villiers had ambled to 25 off 21 balls at the end of the 15th over with just 113 on the scoreboard. It was the business end of the innings and AB was geared up to go all out.
Sandeep Sharma, Punjab’s best bowler this season, fired in a yorker. Against most of the players, it would have been a dot or at the most a quick single but AB swept it over backward square leg boundary for maximum. The next nine balls saw the South African complete his half-century, his fourth in this IPL. The next five balls saw AB reach 64, helpin RCB to yet another 170-plus score. AB found an able partner in Sachin Baby (33) and together they added 88 runs off 55 balls.
The platform was set by KL Rahul’s breezy 42 and Virat Kohli’s cameo of 20 as the duo stitched together 63 runs for the first wicket. This is the ninth time in as many matches that RCB have put up at least 170 on board.
Vijay knock in vain
A decent start of 45 gave Kings XI Punjab a glimmer of hope with Hashim Amla getting 21 off 20 balls along with skipper Murali Vijay. No doubt Kohli looked tense. After all his bowlers had failed to defend scores of 191 against Delhi, 170 against MI, 180 against Gujarat Lions and 185 against KKR.
As Watson provided the first breakthrough by removing Amla, it was Yuzvendra Chahal who provided twin breakthroughs to give RCB an upper hand. Wriddhiman Saha was run out for 16, and off the next ball Chahal accounted for David Miller, stumped for zero, to restrict the KXIP chase. Stoinis and Farhaan Behardien scored 35 off the last 18 balls but fell short by a run as Chris Jordan somehow denied that vital boundary in the end.