Glenn Maxwell and AB de Villiers played sensational knocks on Chennai pitch that has not been easy for run-scoring as Royal Challengers Bangalore defeated Kolkata Knight Riders by 38 runs in the Indian Premier League match on Sunday.
This is the first time in the franchise’s history they have won the first three matches of an IPL season as they returned to the top of the table with six points.
Batting first, De Villiers’ master class and Maxwell’s counter-attacking half-century propelled RCB to an imposing 204/4. In reply, KKR were stopped at 166 for eight as RCB regained the top spot in the pecking order.
RCB smashed 56 runs in the last three overs, including 21 in the final six deliveries, thanks to de Villiers 34-ball 76 not out.
Maxwell blazed away to 78 off 49 deliveries, hitting nine boundaries and three maximums before the genius from South Africa strode in and struck the same number of fours and sixes as his teammate from Australia.
Kolkata briefly threatened to make a match out of it late on in the run-chase when Andre Russell teed off but it was eventually too little too late.
The Knight Riders were off to a brilliant start in the match with leg-break bowler Varun Chakravarthy leaving RCB in early trouble at 9/2 with the big wickets of skipper Virat Kohli (5) and Rajat Patidar (1) in the second over.
Opening the bowling for KKR, veteran off-spinner Harbhajan Singh bowled a tight line and length to stifle the RCB batsmen in his first two overs.
After Varun lured Kohli to go over cover with a tossed-up delivery that drifted away from the right-hander, Rahul Tripathi pulled off a sensational catch running back from extra-cover. The top batsman was nowhere close to the ball.
Varun then went through the defence of Patidar with one that darted back on landing.
Mixing aggression with caution, Maxwell and Devdutt Padikkal (25) revived the RCB innings after the early blows at the MA Chidambaram Stadium.
While the young Indian seemed content playing the second fiddle, the swashbuckling Australian counter-attacked in fine fashion and played the big shots with consummate ease.
The in-form Maxwell upped the ante when he cleared his front leg to plonk Shakib Al Hasan over long-on for his first maximum in the sixth over.
The one bowled by Shakib turned out to be a productive over for RCB as they got 17 runs off it.
Morgan’s decision to take out both Varun and Harbhajan at a time when they were bowling well was baffling, with former captain Gautam Gambhir slamming the move in the Star Sports studio, as RCB capitalised on the surprising move.
After reaching 45/2 at the end of the six powerplay overs, Maxwell shifted gears and raced to his half-century in just 28 balls. Even Varun, who was on fire some time ago, was not spared by Maxwell as he smashed him for a six and four off successive balls.
Prasidh Krishna ended the third-wicket partnership of 86 runs by sending back Padikkal, which signalled the arrival of De Villiers in the middle.
Joining forces, the dazzling duo of Maxwell and De Villiers did not allow the KKR bowlers to settle into any sort of rhythm until premier pacer Pat Cummins ended their 53-run association.
Ater that, the show belonged to De Villiers as he toyed with KKR bowlers. He finished it off in style, pummelling Andre Russell for three fours and a six in the last over of the innings.
The last-over onslaught was preceded by 4, 4, 6 as de Villiers left KKR clueless.
In the run-chase, Shubman Gill and in-from Nitish Rana struck a few fours and sixes before the former got out for a nine-ball 21.
KKR kept losing wickets at regular intervals and were tottering at 114 for five in the 14th over when purple cap holder Harshal Patel dismissed captain Eoin Morgan (29).
Russell (31 off 20 balls) provided some entertainment by collecting 20 runs off Yuzvendra Chahal in the 17th over, the sequence of shots reading 6, 4, 4, 4.
Next, Kyle Jamieson was played over midwicket for a big six by Russell, but the tall Kiwi pacer also had two wickets in the same over.
For RCB, Jamieson finished with 3/41 and there were two wickets apiece for Harshal and Chahal, with the legspinner enjoying a return to wicket-taking ways.
With PTI inputs