Royal Challengers Bangalore’s bowling attack has often proved the team’s weak link in this Indian Premier League season. On Sunday, they redeemed themselves by restricting Delhi Daredevils to 138 for eight, setting up a six-wicket victory at the Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh International Cricket Stadium.
Both teams needed to win to make it to the playoffs, with Gujarat Lions, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders having already sealed their berth.
A target of 139 was never going to be enough against a team with Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli. Though the first two batsmen fell cheaply, Kohli, like most matches this seasons, took Bangalore home with another unbeaten knock, his 54 not out sealing the team second spot in the league table.
For a while, he was matched stroke for stroke by KL Rahul, who scored 38.
While Gayle flopped with the bat, he claimed two wickets and was among the pick of the bowlers, along with leg spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, who claimed three wickets to become the highest wicket-taker this season.
Bangalore’s much-maligned bowlers were on top from the start with Sreenath Aravind removing Rishabh Pant in the second over.
Only opener Quinton de Kock stood firm, scoring 60 off 52 balls. A late 18-ball 27 by Chris Morris saved some face for the hosts.
Bangalore’s bowling was helped generously by shoddy batting and exceptional fielding. Gayle dived full stretch and plucked the ball out of air to end Sam Billings’ stint. The surprise of the 2016 IPL auction, Pawan Negi, flopped with the bat, scooping an easy catch to long-off after stuttering to six runs from 11 balls.
DD had splurged R8.5 crore on Negi, after decent outings in the Vijay Hazare and Syed Mushtaq Ali earned him an India spot for the T20s against Sri Lanka, the Asia Cup and World T20.
In the end, it was another Kohli show, the skipper pulling RCB from close to elimination to the second spot in the standings. He struck six fours, working hard after denying Zaheer Khan a second success in his incisive early spell.