Kings XI Punjab are making life increasingly difficult for themselves as they succumbed to their third straight defeat in the Indian Premier League with an embarrassing 10-wicket loss to Royal Challengers Bangalore in Indore on Monday.
Put in to bat by RCB, Kings XI were blown away for just 88 runs, which Virat Kohli and Parthiv Patel chased down with 71 balls to spare.
Nearly all of Kings XI’s six defeats this season have been down to the fact that their batting line-up has a massive hole after the two openers, and Monday evening was no different. RCB exposed KXIP’s weaknesses to the tee and are now two more wins away from sneaking into the playoffs through the back door, with their Net Run Rate getting a significant boost.
Here are the talking points from the match.
Kohli’s mind games
There was something in the air right from the toss. As Virat Kohli called the flip of the coin right and opted to chase, his choice of words after that was quite interesting. Kings XI were missing Afghani spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman, who has been one of their standout performers this season, through injury and Kohli made it a point to ensure his counterpart knew they were at a disadvantage.
“They’re one bowler short – one mystery bowler short – so that gives us a bit of an advantage to start with anyway,” he said. “The wicket is really nice with a nice, hard covering, so it’s going to be a very hard ground to defend on.”
Kohli also went on to say that since Kings XI were playing at their home ground, “there is added pressure” on them to get a result their way.
And just when you thought that perhaps too much was being read into Kohli’s words, the RCB captain looked quite charged up on the field as he came up against former teammates in Chris Gayle and KL Rahul. Kohli’s tone was similar in the post-match presentation as well from the winning captain – more on that later.
In fact, Michael Clarke, doing commentary duties for the broadcaster, went to the extent of saying that Kohli was behaving as if he was facing Australia. Make of that what you will.
Was Kohli responding to this video posted by Kings XI last month where Rahul, a former RCB employee, mocks the Bengaluru-based franchise’s motto “Ee Sala Cup Namde” (This time the cup is ours)?
Guess we will never know.
Umesh’s extended spell
Kohli handed the new ball to his two fast bowlers – Umesh Yadav and Tim Southee – and as the match began, it became clear what the plan was against Kings XI’s two explosive openers: attack their body and cramp them up for room.
Umesh Yadav was particularly brilliant in the execution of this plan, while Southee did not do too bad himself but for a couple of loose deliveries. Umesh should have had Gayle in the first over itself with a peach of a delivery that swung in through the air before pitching and then straightened up, taking the left-hander’s outside edge and should have been pouched by the wicketkeeper. However, Parthiv Patel, diving to his favoured left side, could not hold on to it.
Both pace bowlers mostly bowled length deliveries on the off-stump or the fourth stump line and did not allow the two openers to swing their arms without shuffling across. On the last ball of Umesh’s second over, Rahul made some room for himself and tried to clear mid-off but did not connect properly, even as his shot dropped just beyond the reach of the fielder.
Kohli knew that Umesh was troubling the two openers and decided to give the Vidarbha pacer a third over. At first, it seemed the ploy had failed as Rahul read Umesh’s back-of-the-hand cutter well and sent it packing over deep mid-wicket for six. However, Umesh then banged it in short and straight and got Rahul to pull, but the extra pace was just enough for the shot to be mistimed to land into the hands of deep square-leg.
Umesh wasn’t done yet, as he got Gayle out in almost similar fashion off the final ball of his third over. KXIP had lost both their openers in the first five overs and that was more than half the battle won for RCB.
What is the worst thing you can do as captain when your team is reeling at 78/6? Ask Ravi Ashwin.
The 31-year-old inexplicably ran himself out off the very first ball he faced, going for a run that was never there, to further deepen the hole in which his team was in. It was a comical scene: Ashwin tapped the ball towards the covers and started running. Nearly halfway across the crease, he realised his partner Axar Patel was not interested in the run, so he turned around rather leisurely and tried to head back into his crease. He put in the dive but there’s no way he was going to survive that. 78/7.
What was worse for Kings XI was that two other batsmen decided to follow their captain’s example and ran themselves out as the hosts were bowled out for 88. Mohit Sharma was done in by the swift pick-up and throw of AB de Villiers as he made the mistake of running (leisurely at that) for a misfield, and Ankit Rajpoot committed the cardinal sin of not sliding his bat in while running into the crease and that was that.
Kohli isn’t done
At some level, this match was more than just getting two points for RCB. Given Mumbai Indians have the best NRR among all teams this year, Kohli would have had an eye on the margin of win all along. It was no surprise, then, to see him open the batting and ensure his side notched up a win that swung RCB’s NRR from negative into positive, a few points behind MI. It could all come down to that.
And after RCB chased down 89 comfortably in 8.1 overs without losing any wicket, Kohli was back on the mic to further poke Kings XI. Asked about the opening spell by Umesh and Southee, he said, “I think Kings thought we would be a little intimidated by their batting up front, especially playing on a small field, but the way these guys ran in and took the batsmen on with their body language made them feel they can’t afford to make mistakes.”
And just so that the point was driven home, he repeated the bit about Mujeeb: “Umesh getting rid of both the openers was key for us. Then, we kept striking through the innings. We knew they would want to get big runs because they don’t have the mystery spinner today and we knew we could bank on that particular aspect.”