In Twenty20 cricket, it may take just one over for a team to claw back into the game, but another over or two could snatch the game away. Virat Kohli was again at the helm of a great chase, this time against Rising Pune Supergiants at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, scoring his second unbeaten century (108 off 58 balls, 8x4, 7x6) to overhaul Rising Pune’s total of 191 with seven wickets in hand.
Kohli became the second player in the IPL to score two centuries in a season, following RCB teammate Chris Gayle. The century took his IPL runs tally to 541, with an astonishing average of 90. His previous century against the Gujarat Lions had come in a losing cause, and although his bowlers and fielders did everything wrong, he single-handedly rallied the team to victory.
Though Kohli stole the show, credit was also due to Shane Watson, who produced an all-round effort (3/24 and 36 off 13) to prove that it doesn’t take much to turn things around in this format. RCB lost their first wicket on 94, in the 12th over, with KL Rahul falling to Supergiants’ new addition, Aussie leg spinner Adam Zampa. Five balls later, Zampa trapped AB de Villiers to push RCB against the wall.
At that juncture, it looked like Zampa, on his IPL debut, could be the saviour for MS Dhoni’s side. He had played a pivotal role against Pakistan in the World T20, picking two important wickets. He also had a three-wicket haul, against Bangladesh at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.
RCB required 94 in 48 balls and Kohli needed someone to support him. As the king of chases, Kohli calculated what it would take to make it. He had run hard, found gaps, picked the spots well, targeted bowlers and done whatever he could. As time out, he ran to coach Daniel Vettori to discuss plans to complete the chase.
He just wanted a stand and Watson came good. On a day when the other bowlers had taken the beating from Ajinkya Rahane and Saurabh Tiwary, the Aussie all-rounder came good in the end, claiming three quick wickets, conceding just 24 runs. Those strikes broke Pune’s momentum and they failed to cross 200.
Kohli’s innings was pure class as he played copy book strokes. With two right-handers at the crease, Dhoni delayed the introduction of Ravichandran Ashwin, and instead relied on medium-pacers Thisara Perera and Rajat Bhatia. At that stage, RCB required 89 runs off 42 balls.
Watson knew Perera would bowl outside off-stump due to the field set. Making some room, Watson began the onslaught. At the end of Perera’s over, Watson had got 20 runs. He followed it up with another big over, hitting a couple off sixes off Rajat Bhatia in the next over. The two overs Watson faced brought the equation down to 50 runs in 30 balls. Watson had done his job. In the previous game too, Watson had contributed 34 against KKR, although that did not help the team win.
In the end, Kohli took over and hit the bowlers all around the park. His innings eclipsed the knocks of Ajinkya Rahane (74) as well as Saurabh Tiwary (52) and brought the Royal Challengers an important victory.