“I hope it doesn’t prove costly,” a miked-up George Bailey murmured after narrowly missing an opportunity to run Virat Kohli out. Kohli had been on 4 at the time. He ended up smoking an unbeaten 108 off 58, made a chase of 192 look almost routine and steered Royal Challengers Bangalore to victory over Rising Pune Supergiants.
Supergiants’ total was founded on fifties from Ajinkya Rahane and Saurabh Tiwary and, even more so, on a litany of errors from Royal Challengers in the field. But, led by Kohli, and boosted by crucial knocks from KL Rahul and Shane Watson, Royal Challengers brought the full force of their batting might to bear on a hapless bowling attack.
A chase of 192 requires a good start, and it was provided by Kohli and Rahul. There were three quiet at the start before a series of classy drives – along the ground and through the air – took the score to 94 without loss by the 11th over. Supergiants hit back in the next over when legspinner Adam Zampa, on IPL debut, dismissed Rahul and then the dangerous AB de Villiers as well.
With 89 needed off 42, Shane Watson combined lusty strikes with streaky edges and before the bowler Thisara Perera knew it he had given away five fours in an over. With back-to-back sixes off Rajat Bhatia, whose slow cutters had started to become predictable, Watson brought the equation to 50 off 30 balls.
The next two overs belonged to Supergiants RP Singh dismissed Watson and R Ashwin, introduced in the 17th over, conceded just seven. But Kohli remained. He plundered four sixes and a four off Zampa and RP Singh to leave just four runs to get off the final over, and applied the finishing touch himself. Kohli became the quickest batsman to 500 runs in an IPL season; achieving the landmark in eight innings, one better than his team-mate Chris Gayle, who was left out of the XI on Saturday.
Unlike their captain, the Royal Challengers bowlers and fielders were off their game. Missed chances have been a persistent irritant for them this season, but they graduated to a battering ram of woe today.
Tiwary was dropped twice in as many balls in the sixth over; Stuart Binny missed a straightforward chance at short cover and Sachin Baby was unable to hold on despite getting both hands behind the ball at point. Tiwary received a third life, on 25, when Rahul fluffed a stumping and went on to make 52 off 39 balls. It was his second fifty in three matches.
The worst of Royal Challengers’ errors came in the eighth over, when Rahane was surprised by Varun Aaron’s extra bounce and the ball popped up towards where silly mid-on might have been. Both the bowler and Watson, running in from midwicket attempted to get under it, but no one went for the catch. The ball landed barely a foot from Watson.
Rahane finished with 78 off 48 balls, with eight fours and two sixes. His sixth half-century of the season put Supergiants on course for a total over 200. They went into the final five overs with eight wickets in hand and that allowed the batsmen coming in to look for runs despite risk. Supergiants did get 53 off these overs, but they needed a lot more considering Kohli was going to be in his happy place with a target to chase.