If not for AB de Villiers, 175 was more than a par score on this challenging pitch at the Chinnaswamy on Saturday.
If not for AB de Villiers, Rishabh Pant’s 48-ball 85 would have been remembered for being one of the best slam-bang innings this season as he took his team from 58/2 after 10 to 174.
If not for AB de Villiers, RCB’s poor death bowling would have been the story to focus for Virat Kohli and Co.
But as luck would have it, Saturday’s match was a vintage ABD show. The kind that can make anything possible irrespective of the pitch, the kind where no one can actually set a field to contain him, the kind that gave him the moniker of Mr 360.
As Pant said after the match, de Villiers unbeaten 39-ball 90 was the difference between both teams as the South African almost singled-handedly chased down the 175 run target with two overs to spare to beat Delhi Daredevils by six wickets.
Royal Challengers Bangalore fans may be ruing the absence of Chris Gayle and Shane Watson after their centuries lit up the scorecards in the last week. But when the time came, in a bottom-of-the-table clash, it was de Villiers who showed why he was retained ahead of many others.
When he came in to bat, the score was 29/2. Quinton de Kock had just sacrificed his wicket for Kohli in a horrendous mix-up, but the crowd didn’t mind, it was time for the big show. And de Villiers obliged by striking back-to-back boundaries off Shahbaz Nadeem to end the wicket over.
From then on, it was massacre. It looked like the man was incapable of mistiming the ball, as he stroked, smashed and even subtly placed the ball across the ropes. More than once, his outrageous shots brought the Chinnaswamy roof down. Remember, this was a pitch that was slow, had plenty of turn and was where 160 would have been a par score. But to de Villiers, it was akin to a net session.
Such was his destructive display, than when Kohli fell to the catch of the season by Trent Boult (a one-handed leap at the boundary, with his wrong hand, falling face forward but holding on inches away from the rope) it was just a blip. In any other match, this catch would have been the biggest talking point. But when the ABD comes to the party…
His half-century came in 24 balls and even when the required run rate was touching 10, the RCB dug-out would not have worried much, this chase was on course.
After discussing poisonous snakes and spider with Matthew Hayden on the mic while fielding, de Villiers had become a lethal creature himself with the bat. No matter the fall of wickets, it was clear that ABD would get them across. Even when he did actually mistime a shot, it fell in no man’s land. It was just the kind of the day and Gautam Gambhir and Co had no choice but to watch.
Pant’s extraordinary innings is a de Villiers daily
Delhi Daredevils are now at the bottom of the table, after losing a match that they actually had the chance to win Before AB. They managed to build their innings despite a solid start from RCB bowlers after being put in to bat.
After languishing on the lowest 10-over score this season, they smashed 116 off the next 10 thanks to Pant and Shreyas Iyer’s 49-ball 75 run stand.
Pant himself showed why he is considered the heir apparent to MS Dhoni with his half-century off 34 balls. In his version of power batting, he played some unbelievable shots – a duck pull, a reverse swat, a virtual blind shot, and flat six that just touched his bat and went for six at fine leg.
But while Pant played an extraordinary knock, it seemed like it was just another day at the office for de Villiers. And that was the difference between both teams.
A few days back, Dwayne Bravo had called Kohli the Cristiano Ranaldo of cricket, which sparked social media debate on who could be Lionel Messi. The most agreed on response was AB de Villiers.
On Saturday, as Kohli watched from the other end, the comparisons looked like it did have some merit after all. Against the same bowlers, on the same pitch, de Villiers was effortless talent where Kohli was determined potential.
Like Messi, de Villiers, on a good day, makes batting look effortless, boundaries non-existent and bowlers mere machines. RCB will hope that “Mamba” as he said he felt like, continues this approach for the rest of the season as they try to leave their poor start behind.