The Royal Challengers Bangalore season before Saturday night’s game against Kings XI Punjab read a dismal ‘L L L L L L’. By the time the game ended, RCB had added a W at the end of that long, but not surprising, list of failures.
But for a team that has two of the world’s best batsmen in Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers and some very talented fast bowlers, the win was more a result of the wonderful spells bowled by the spinners in the middle over of the Kings XI innings.
KXIP got off to a brilliant start – racking up 60 in the Powerplay overs with Chris Gayle going great guns. That’s when spin first came to RCB’s rescue with Yuzvendra Chahal snaring KL Rahul’s wicket.
The leg-spinner was brought into the attack immediately after the Powerplay overs were finished and his first ball was deposited into the stands by Rahul. The ball pitched on the leg-stump and the batsman used his feet to get to the pitch off the ball and hit it straight over the bowler’s head.
The second ball from Chahal was on the off-stump and Rahul once again stepped out. Only this time, the ball dipped and the batsman was beaten in flight. The bowler didn’t even celebrate.
Mayank Agarwal came in next and seemed to settle in well. KXIP’s run-rate didn’t drop as he found ways to keep scoring. Then, he launched Chahal into the stands.
The next ball showed why Chahal is one of the best limited overs bowlers in the country. He, once again, gave the ball air and pitched it on the middle stump. The ball gripped and turned past the bat to hit the top of the off-stump. Agarwal had no answer.
Chahal may not be the best fielder around and his batting is worth writing about but as a bowler, as a wicket-taking bowle, he may just be crucial to India’s World Cup chances.
Still, KXIP got to the 10-over mark with 90 runs on board and only two wickets lost. But there was an inexplicable slowdown from this point to the 16th over. From 90/2, KXIP could only reach 127/4 at the end of the 16th over.
Moeen Ali, who was not even used by Kohli in one game despite playing, came up with a brilliantly economical spell of 4-0-19-1. Between them, the two spinners conceded 52 runs in 8 overs and snapped up three vital wickets. It was a period that proved to be the difference between victory and defeat.
In the chase, for once, RCB’s top-order got it right. A quick start – 43 runs in 3.4 overs before Parthiv Patel was dismissed and then a superbly controlled partnership between Kohli (67) and AB de Villiers (59*) took them to 128 in the 16th over before Kohli was hit one straight to the fielder in the deep off Mohammed Shami.
But Marcus Stoinis, who wasn’t given a bowl, came up with a vital 28 off 16 balls to close things off in style. Kohli and de Villers had done the hard yards and Stoinis finished the game.
The win may not mean much in terms of the bigger picture but in terms of the the franchise, it was big. Another defeat would have seen them set a new record for the worst start to the season and that is an ignominy that every team and player would like to avoid.
RCB’s problems persist though and it will take a herculean effort to salvage something from this season. Still, it’s always good to break the duck.