“Once we get our fielding and bowling right, we’ll be a scary team,” Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) pacer Kane Richardson had said last week. He had harped on the need for more support for the star batsmen in the side. The statement could not have been truer on Sunday.
Skipper Virat Kohli’s dominating century had led RCB to a competitive score of 180. It was a total that should have been defended on a Rajkot track that hasn’t quite favoured the batsmen this season.
The bowling has been Bangalore’s weak link. Even as Kohli, AB de Villiers and Shane Watson have lit up the scoring charts, the bowlers have invariably let the dominance slip.
On Sunday, only the spin of South African new-comer Tabraiz Shamsi (4-0-21-1) showed potency. The rest were largely inconsistent.
The experienced Watson and Richardson were the main culprits.
Watson even bowled a no-ball in the final over to concede a free-hit. It didn’t go for a boundary, but eased whatever tension Gujarat Lions batsmen may have felt going into the final over needing seven to win.
Kiwi pacer Richardson leaked 53 runs in his four overs and dropped a regulation caught-and-bowled chance offered by Dinesh Karthik on 33. At that stage, Gujarat needed 26 runs off 17 balls. Karthik made an unbeaten 50.
A wicket at that stage could have tilted the game in RCB’s favour.
RCB’s bowling was depleted after influential Aussie left-arm paceman Mitchell Starc was ruled out following ankle surgery in December.
Kohli had to depend on spinners Iqbal Abdulla, Yuzvendra Chahal and Shamsi. Despite their domestic credentials, Chahal and Abdulla have not made an impact.
Both failed to create wicket-taking opportunities. Abdulla conceded 41 runs in his four overs. Chahal was economical, but couldn’t pick wickets.
“Batting is not a concern. We are planning a lot of things (with the ball). It was a slow pitch, we shouldn’t have given so many balls close to the batsman that he could hit. Should have kept it away from his reach,” lamented Kohli.
All Gujarat’s top-order batsmen contributed. Karthik, who faced a majority of the deliveries against spinners in the middle overs, capitalised.
Openers Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith laid the foundation for the chase. McCullum (42) was more orthodox, and his shots included an exquisite straight drive. Smith clobbered a few to push the rate up.
Karthik’s knock in the end took Gujarat to their fourth win of the season and to the top of the points table.