On Friday night at the sandswept Sharjah Cricket Stadium, there was one thing in common between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Chennai Super Kings. Their openers got them off to a good start. The similarity ended there and the differences thereafter were jarring.
The Chennai bowlers, after being taken to the cleaners, fought back with guts and guile while their counterparts didn’t have enough ammunition to counter the attack. The striking difference, though, was the utility of their batting order.
While RCB’s middle-order fell in a heap, MS Dhoni’s men stood up for the count. The result was that CSK continued their march towards the top-two slot with a comprehensive six-wicket win. Chasing RCB’s modest 156/6, Chennai overhauled the target with 11 balls to spare.
Ruturaj Gaikwad (38) and Faf du Plessis (31) were off the blocks in quick time with their 71-run opening stand. Gaikwad was the first to go after Kohli, coming in from backward point, took a stunning low catch off Yuzvendra Chahal. Glenn Maxwell then got Du Plessis number but useful contributions from Moeen Ali (23) and Ambati Rayudu (32) was enough for CSK to cross the finish line.
Earlier, after a crushing ninewicket loss to Kolkata Knight Riders earlier this week, in which they were bowled out for 92, it was important for the Royal Challengers Bangalore batsmen to haul themselves off the floor. RCB openers Virat Kohli (53; 41b, 6×4, 1×6) and Devdutt Padikkal (70, 50b, 5×4, 3×6) got the team off to a rollicking start with a 111-run opening act. Just when it looked like RCB were set for a big total, the Chennai bowlers staged a remarkable comeback to restrict Kohli and Co.
On a surface which delighted the batsmen initially, Dhoni, who won the toss which was delayed due to a stand storm, asked the opposition to bat. RCB’s innings was divided into two parts. First, the Kohli-Padikkal fireworks and then the blundering next half which saw them lose five wickets for the addition of sixteen runs.
Kohli, who has been lying low for a while, decided it was about time he fired. The openers were in lethal mood, driving, pulling and cutting at will and it felt like nothing was out of their reach as RCB raced to 55 in Power Play.
Chennai bowlers struggled to curtail the opposition, but the script changed in the latter half of the innings.
Often under-utilised as a bowler, Dwayne Bravo (3/24) was Dhoni’s main arsenal. Kohli was done in by a slower one from Bravo as he looked to clear the deep midwicket but found Ravindra Jadeja inches inside the boundary. By the time Kohli was dismissed in the 14th over, the run rate had started to dip and RCB failed to recover thereafter, losing wickets in quick time.
Shardul Thakur (2/29) dealt RCB a double blow in the 17th over, with AB de Villiers (12) and Padikkal returning to the dugout off consecutive deliveries. The star-studded middle-order turned out to be all bluff and bluster as Glen Maxwell, debutant Tim David, who replaced Sachin Baby in the line-up, and Harshal Patel made brief appearances at the crease adding little in terms of runs on the board.