In the last Indian Premier League season, Royal Challengers Bangalore lost a lot of close matches in the last over; matches they should have won but didn’t. And for a while, it looked like the bad habit would carry into IPL 2020 too. They got off to a good start – 90/0 after 10.5 overs – with opener Devdutt Padikkal leading the way. With Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers in the line-up, most watchers felt RCB would kick into an even higher gear after that.
But instead, RCB lost two wickets and then were forced into a period of rebuilding, which saw them go 24 balls without a single boundary. This robbed them of momentum till ABD came to their rescue with a classic 51 off 30 balls, a knock which underscored his genius once again.
Having got to 163/5 in their innings, RCB’s bowlers started a little flat. They were lucky to get David Warner early after Umesh Yadav deflected one back onto the stumps with the Australian on 6. But Jonny Bairstow and Manish Pandey carried Sunrisers Hyderabad to 89/1 after 11.5 overs.
Pandey’s wicket gave RCB a glimpse of SRH’s inexperienced middle order and the wicket of Bairstow completely exposed them. Hyderabad went from 121/2 to 153 all out in quick time and Kohli and Co started with a win.
For the first time since 2016, Royal Challengers Bangalore managed to win their first game of the season. RCB still have a lot to work on but they will take this. A win early in the season gets the jitters out of the way and given how long the cricketers have been out of action, this will feel good.
Three players, in particular, stood out for RCB:
The young opener from Karnataka had been the talk of the domestic circuit last season. His form in the shorter formats of the game had been amazing (List A: 13 matches, 650 runs, average 59.09 and T20: 12 matches, 580 runs, average 64.44, S/R 176). Still, there are a lot of batsmen who do very well at the Ranji Trophy level but fail to find their feet at a higher level.
But Padikkal seemed very much at ease. He was calm and collected in the middle as he went on to score a half-century on debut. His sense of timing and ability to find the gaps stood out but more importantly, he didn’t look like a player who was getting carried away by a few good shots. Composure is a vital aspect of success at the highest level and he showed loads of that.
He finished with 56 off 42 balls, with eight fours. It’s still early days but the signs are encouraging. Teams will break down his technique even more and if he does get through the season well, it will do his confidence a whole lot of good.
AB de Villiers
The South African star is 36. He had been away from the game, like almost everyone else, for a while now. But while he looked a little rusty to start things off, once the shots started flowing, it looked like he had never been away.
He had slowly made his way to 20 off 16 balls – carefully orchestrating a mid-innings rebuild along with skipper Kohli. But a couple of hits to the fence got him going and then there was no stopping him.
ABD’s ability to accelerate from a dead start is unmatched in world cricket and he can do this in all kinds of conditions. Some batsmen like a particular set of conditions but ABD simply takes the pitch out of the equation and that makes him so important. in the UAE especially.
The South African finished with 51 off 30 balls with four fours and two sixes. After the match, ABD said: “I surprised myself to be honest.”
Frankly, no one else was.
Chahal doesn’t mind getting hit for a few. Even when the batsmen are going after him, he still keeps tossing the ball up and that fearless attitude makes him much-loved by captains. But on Monday, he was called upon to restrict run-scoring and take wickets on a ground where dew was a factor. And he delivered on both fronts.
He started off by bowling accurately, taking advantage of the fact that the batsmen were wary against him. The leg-spinner also extracted good turn from the wicket despite the dew making it difficult to grip the ball.
The wicket of Manish Pandey gave RCB a chance and then the twin blows of Bairstow and Vijay Shankar, in his last over, set the cat among the pigeons. The leg-spinner finished with bowling figures of 4-0-18-3, conceding just one four (which came off his last ball) in his spell.
“Not many other spinners got too much out of the pitch, but tonight he showed that if you have skill in the wrist, you can purchase on any track,” Kohli added of the Dubai International Cricket Stadium pitch. “That’s why he bowls well in Bangalore too. The dew was a big factor tonight, the pitch was decent to bat on in the second half I thought - much better than the first half. But the way he came in, backed his skill and got the ball to turn and bowled attacking lines. He was the one who changed the game, in my opinion.”