Virat Kohli and Chris Gayle unleashed a no-holds barred pounding of the Kings XI Punjab bowlers so savage they would have probably thanked the rain that ate into 10 overs of the match.
Kohli, however, was batting at a different level. Rewriting record books with a consistency rarely seen in modern-day cricket, he reached his fourth century of the tournament and took RCB to an unthinkable 211 in 15 overs, all with seven stitches in his left hand webbing.
Punjab could have never kept up with that high an asking rate as they crumbled to 120 for nine when rain intervened again. RCB won the match by 82 runs under the Duckworth-Lewis rain rule.
Electing to chase has been this IPL’s norm but doing that at the Chinnaswamy stadium, where RCB have two 200-plus totals batting first, was a risky decision by KXIP captain Murali Vijay. The first three overs, bowled by Sandeep Sharma and Mohit Sharma, went for just 17, but it was the lull before the storm. The decimation was uncorked in the fourth over, and Kyle Abbott went for 18 runs, including two sixes off Gayle’s bat over long-off and cover.
Spinner KC Cariappa was thrown in the mix to see how Gayle reacted. Gayle’s slog across the line had enough power to land just beyond the boundary. With a four behind point, Gayle gave the strike to Kohli, who hit a six over long-off to bring up another 18-run over. It set the tone of the match as even Axar Patel couldn’t plug the run flow.
Kohli then milked Cariappa for 19 runs, including two sixes and a boundary. Kings XI Punjab had no chance of making a comeback. Patel even started bowling negative and conceded three wides. The moment he bowled straighter, Gayle smoked him for two sixes to bring up his first half-century of the tournament. This was before Kohli sent back Cariappa with figures of 3-0-55-0. Once Farhaan Behardien touched the rope trying to catch Kohli at long-off, the RCB captain re-routed Cariappa for two sixes over long-on and deep mid-wicket.
Patel finally got Gayle but not before the Jamaican had teased him with three sixes. AB de Villiers didn’t fire but with Kohli in no mood to give any quarter, Punjab were dreading the worst. Looking to come down the wicket more often, Kohli was intent on making the length balls fuller and give a good swing. For a man who confessed to being more of a boundary hitter, Kohli finished with eight sixes compared to 12 fours in his 50-ball innings.
Seven off those boundaries came in the last 13 balls Kohli faced. It peaked with three consecutive fours after Kohli launched into Abbott for a six. Not only did Kohli pack a punch but his placement was also immaculate, like when he guided a full and wide Mohit delivery between point and third man for four.
A flick for four through deep midwicket the next over finally fetched Kohli his fourth IPL century. Had it not been for the bat turning in his hands, Kohli could have added more to his IPL tally of 821 runs. Given his form though, Kohli should start from he had left on Wednesday. Anything else would be a surprise.