Royal Challengers Bangalore have a slim, theoretical chance of making it to the knockout stages. But for that to happen, they have to win every game they play from this point on and hope that some of the other results go their way.
Momentum is a key driver in T20 cricket – a lack of it can consign a team to defeat and when it is found, it can, like RCB showed on Friday night against KKR, help them scale heights the team didn’t even think possible.
RCB are still sitting at the bottom of the Indian Premier League table but they managed to beat Kolkata Knight Riders in a match that was dominated by the batsmen. Big-hitting from both sides made it an enjoyable game to watch, but the once high-flying team from Kolkata crashed to their fourth successive defeat and the slump in form should worry the team management no end.
Here’s what we learnt from the game:
At the toss, Virat Kohli said that AB de Villiers will not be playing. To most RCB supporters, the team’s chances of victory dropped even lower than they have been this season. But to the RCB skipper, it was a challenge and one that he rose to magnificently.
The wicket wasn’t easy to bat on initially with the pacers managing to consistently get something out of it. This resulted in Kohli just looking to hang in there initially. The ball took the edge of Kohli’s bat several times but he made his luck count and how!
He knew that his wicket was crucial for his side and he remained circumspect till he reached 50 off 40 balls. Then, as Moeen Ali started hitting the big shots, Kohli found another gear as he so usually does.
In the next 10 balls he faced, Kohli scored 30 runs. And by the time he was dismissed after making his fifth IPL century, he had taken RCB to a position of great strength. His century had come off just 58 balls – his second fifty had come off just 18.
It was a knock that just went to show that you never want Kohli to get his eye in. For if he does, he will make you pay.
While Kohli’s knock was super, the man who really turned things it around for RCB was Moeen Ali. RCB’s run-rate was floundering when the left-hander came in to bat, but he decided to take the risks and go for it. And it came off quite spectacularly.
One over stood out. It was bowled by Kuldeep Yadav, who is enduring a horrid IPL season. The first ball was hammered past long-off for four, the second was smashed over cow corner, the third was again hit for four straight down the ground, the fourth was hit for six over long-on, then Kuldeep bowled a wide, the fifth was hit for six over long-off. When Moeen was dismissed off the sixth ball – his score was 66 off 28 balls.
The 27-run over was a turning point in the game. RCB went from strength to strength after it while KKR simply collapsed in a heap. Moeen has been one of the few bright spots for RCB this season and he once again came through when he was called to bowl the last over of the innings against a rampant Andre Russell.
Losing despite Russell
This is one question that KKR need to be asking themselves over and over again – how are they managing to lose games despite Andre Russell striking the ball the way he is?
The fourth straight loss means that KKR’s bus has stuttered to a stop. Their bowling has been struggling from the first game but their batting too has repeatedly put Russell in difficult positions. In this game, Robin Uthappa failed to get going – he was content to leave the ball or even sway out of way despite the required rate touching 17. With big hitters like Andre Russell and Dinesh Karthik waiting in the dugout, the least he would have done was get out.
But he stayed put for 20 balls to score just 9 runs. In a match of small margins, this was a crucial mistake. As Kevin Pietersen put it after the game: “If Robin Uthappa had gone a run-a-ball, KKR would have won this game.”
And he was right. Nitish Rana weighed in with a 46-ball 85 and Russell smashed 65 off 25 balls but the KKR top-order left them with too much to do.