In the dress rehearsal before the playoffs, Delhi Capitals and Royal Challengers Bangalore were looking to chisel the rough edges, and the latter seemed to have been successful on that count. In Dubai on Friday night, Virat Kohli’s men pulled off a last ball thriller to finish their league outing on a winning note.
Given the form Glenn Maxwell has been in this season, it was hardly surprising that he again piloted his team’s chase with an unbeaten 33-ball 51 (8×4). But the man of the match was a sublime S Bharat (78;52b; 3×4; 4×6), who fittingly scored the winning runs, a last-ball six off Avesh Khan to hand RCB a seven-wicket victory.
Needing 15 runs off the last over, RCB were heading towards their second consecutive narrow loss, but a wide from the young pacer was the only invitation for Bharat. With five runs required off the last ball, Bharat swung his bat hard at a full toss which cleared the ropes.
Coming together when the team precariously placed at 55/3 in the 10th over, the duo was involved in an unbroken 111-run association to see their team through.
Delhi held sway for the better part of the contest and the loss was their own doing. Maxwell flirted with danger on more than one occasion. In the 14th over bowled by Axar Patel, the Australian was put down twice. First, Shreyas Iyer dropped a sitter and then R Ashwin let go off a catch at short third man with a clumsy dive. Delhi paid dearly for these missed opportunities.
Earlier, RCB were off to a horrendous start, losing openers Devdutt Padikkal (0) and Kohli (4) within the third over. Padikkal failed to read a short ball from Nortje and holed out to Ashwin at third man. RCB Skipper Kohli too was guilty of a soft dismissal as he flicked Anrich Nortje (2/24) to Kagiso Rabada at mid-on. Bharat and AB de Villiers (26) then brought about some stability to the wobbling RCB charge.
When batsmen of the calibre of Prithvi Shaw (48; 31b; 4×4; 2×6) and Shikhar Dhawan (43, 35b, 3×4; 2×6) get going, even a quality bowling attack struggles for breakthroughs. RCB experienced it. The Delhi Capitals opening combination, which failed to make the Indian team for the upcoming T20 World Cup, was in fine form as its stand of 88 runs coupled with a late attack by Shimron Hetmyer helped their team post 164/5.
Electing to bowl with an unchanged team, Kohli decided to open with Maxwell’s off-spin. But the move did not yield early wickets. This season’s highest wicket-taker Harshal Patel provided RCB the breakthrough they had been waiting for. A slow off cutter ended Dhawan’s stay at the crease as he tried to loft the ball but skied it to Dan Christian at extra cover.