This IPL campaign may not end in a playoff spot for Royal Challengers Bangalore, but this is a side that is not about to go down with a whimper. Virat Kohli’s men notched up a fourth win in five games, defeating Kings XI Punjab by 17 runs at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium here on Wednesday.
Inspired by an undefeated 82 (44b) by A.B. de Villiers, RCB ran up a towering 202 batting first. Punjab remained in the hunt as long as Nicholas Pooran and David Miller were at the crease, but once their stand of 68 (48b) was broken, RCB would not be denied.
The visitor began the run chase in a hurry, Chris Gayle and K.L. Rahul attacking without a second thought. Dale Steyn missed this game with a shoulder injury, and RCB perhaps missed his contributions with the new ball. Gayle fell for an entertaining 10-ball-23, but Mayank Agarwal and Rahul powered on. Punjab raced to 101 in nine overs, clearly on top.
Stoinis struck at that point, however, having Agarwal caught at mid-wicket for 35. Rahul fell in the following over for 42, chipping Moeen Ali’s first delivery straight to the long-off fielder.
Just as RCB felt it had regained a measure of control, Pooran cut loose. The West Indian left-hander clobbered Washington Sundar — playing his first game this season — for three sixes in the 14th over.
Moeen came under fire not long after as the equation narrowed to 36 off the last three overs. The game was in the balance but Umesh Yadav and Navdeep Saini held their nerve when it mattered.
Earlier, a spectacular late assault by de Villiers and Marcus Stoinis propelled RCB past 200. The pair added an unbroken 121 runs (66b) for the fifth wicket, with the last 71 runs of that partnership arriving in 26 balls.
At one stage, however, the prospect of a tall total had seemed remote. After inserting the home side in, Punjab had excised Kohli cheaply, Mohammed Shami triumphing over his India captain.
Murugan Ashwin had put an end to Parthiv Patel’s exuberance, and R. Ashwin had rushed a delivery through Moeen Ali’s defence. Between the end of the sixth and the 13th overs, RCB had stagnated, adding a mere 29 runs for the loss of three wickets.
de Villiers eased himself in, scoring 25 off his first 25 balls. But when he exploded, with his usual, casual brilliance, Punjab seemed incapable of responding, like men caught in a thundershower in the middle of a paddy field.
de Villiers struck seven sixes in all. Three of these arrived in a row, in Shami’s 19th over: the first two sailed over long-off; the third landed on the roof over fine-leg, when all de Villiers had really done was try to fend a waist-high full toss away. The South African battered 57 runs off his last 19 balls, as RCB gathered 103 runs in the final seven overs of the innings.
He would return to hurt Punjab in the field too, holding two fine catches; by that point, nobody was surprised by anything he did.