They wear jerseys of the same colour but of different shades. And they played a similar brand of cricket when they met in a crunch IPL match in Sharjah on Sunday. But what separated Royal Challengers Bangalore from Punjab Kings was that Virat Kohli & Co dug deeper than KL Rahul’s men. The result: Royal Challengers Bangalore registered a six-run win to stroll into the playoffs with two matches to spare.
Chasing a competitive 164/7 put up by RCB, the highest total at the venue this season, Punjab finished on 158/6.
The result leaves their qualification chances hanging by a thread. While Glenn Maxwell (57, 33b, 3×4, 4×6) again starred with the bat for RCB, Yuzvendra Chahal (3/29) and Harshal Patel set the ball rolling for a fine win. Punjab’s disappointment aside, the contest made for a good weekend potboiler.
Opting to bat on a wicket that slowed down as the match progressed, RCB’s opening pair of Kohli (25) and Devdutt Padikkal (40, 38b, 4×4; 2×6) got the team off to a brisk start. However, the skipper struggled to connect, and after a few misses, his frustration was palpable.
In the eighth over, Punjab were left disappointed after Padikkal’s reverse sweep off Ravi Bishnoi’s googly landed in wicketkeeper Rahul’s hands. With the decision referred to the third umpire K Srinivasan, the ultra-edge showed a slight spike off Padikkal’s glove, but the decision went in the batsman’s favour.
Pacer Moises Henriques put an end to Kohli’s misery with a good length delivery which kept low and crashed into the off-stump. Promoted up the order, Dan Christian followed his leader the very next delivery. Henriques, a part-timer with the ball, struck again, with an indecisive Padikkal nicking to wicketkeeper Rahul.
At 73/3, the run-rate had dipped to below seven-an-over. Maxwell, in the company of AB de Villiers (23, 18b), took the Punjab bowlers to the cleaners. The Australian delighted with his flick shots, timed perfectly and placed precisely, while in-form spinners Bishnoi and Harpreet Brar bore the brunt of his red-hot form.
Maxwell and De Villiers’ 73-run partnership for the fourth wicket proved to be the game changer.
Punjab, on the other hand, were in the hunt until the 10th over, with Purple Cap holder Rahul and Mayank Agarwal laying a solid foundation with a 91-run opening stand. Rahul went for a big one against Shahbaz Ahmed but edged it to Harshal at short third man. Nicholas Pooran’s (3) poor run with the bat continued as he gifted his wicket to Chahal.
Kohli’s most trusted spinner then began to tighten the screws in the 16th over. First, luring Mayank to go for a sweep, which was top-edged to a waiting Mohammed Siraj, and then foxing Sarfaraz Khan with the one that crashed through the gates. Shahrukh Khan, did try to make a match of it but with Harshal’s run-out effort, his spirit and Punjab’s hopes were doused.