Clinical Kohli, du Plessis keep RCB’s fate in their hands

Royal Challengers Bangalore 187 for 2 (Kohli 100, du Plessis 71) beat Sunrisers Hyderabad 186 for 5 (Klaasen 104, Bracewell 2-13) by eight wickets

A stunning chase from Virat Kohli and Faf du Plessis significantly strengthened Royal Challengers Bangalore’s hopes of making it to the playoffs despite one of the great T20 hundreds by Heinrich Klaasen to set up a target of 187. Kohli scored his sixth IPL hundred, making it the first IPL match with hundreds from either side. When Kohli left, RCB needed just 15 from 13 balls, which they got with relative ease with four balls to spare.

RCB momentarily reached the top four with 14 points to their name, level with Mumbai Indians. Both sides have a game left but RCB have the better net run rate. It might well come down to these two teams’ final matches on the final day of the league stages.

SRH’s top-order woes continue

Asked to bat first on what began as a slowish surface, the new SRH opening combination of Abhishek Sharma and Rahul Tripathi struggled to get bat on ball. In the first three overs they scored just 11 runs. And just after Tripathi began going with a four and a six in the fourth over, they both gifted their wickets to Michael Bracewell. Abhishek cut a short and wide loosener straight to cover point, and Tripathi lapped him to short fine leg.

Klaasen checks in

It might be rude to say so but the early strikes were a blessing in disguise for SRH. They brought out their best batter to bat early. And to the first ball he faced, Klaasen showed why he is their best. This offbreak from Bracewell turned appreciably, ending at the top of the leg stump, but Klaasen went back and punched it past extra cover for four.

Klaasen’s ability to hit off the back foot anything marginally short of a length or slow in the air forced the spinners every now and then to overpitch. Whenever they did overpitch, Klaasen was quick to come forward and launch them down the ground. The ease with which Klaasen hit spin – he eventually scored 70 off 29 against them, with five fours and five sixes – forced RCB to bring back the quicks sooner than they would have liked to.

Mohammed Siraj and Wayne Parnell bowled economical overs, but Klaasen got the better of Harshal Patel. It left RCB needing to bowl an over of spin at the death, which is when Klaasen hit Shahbaz Ahmed for successive sixes.

Parnell, Siraj finish off well

Even when Klaasen was going great, he didn’t get much support from the other end. Parnell and Siraj bowled overs 18 and 20 for seven and four runs respectively to keep SRH down to 186. Klaasen scored 104 off 51, the other batters 76 off 69. This was a special innings with a control percentage of 97.1 and a strike-rate of 204. Only AB de Villiers has ever scored a better-controlled hundred at a strike rate of 175 or above in the IPL.

The Kohli-du Plessis show

This match was taking place in Hyderabad, but you wouldn’t have known it from the Aar See Bee chants. It took the significant RCB-supporting section of the crowd just one ball to come back to life after Klaasen had lowered their volume. Kohli drove at an outswinger from Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and got four for it. The next ball he drove off the back foot and over cover-point. The roof came off.

An experimental attack made up mainly of medium-pace and one full-time spinner was under the pump right away. SRH went for Abhishek Sharma’s part-time left-arm spin with the new ball, and Kohli rightly pre-empted arm balls, made room, and hit him for fours too. It was apparent that RCB, who love to bat first, had made the right call at the toss as the grip in the surface had come down from the first innings.

SRH make errors

There were two moments of luck for du Plessis. First Kartik Tyagi drew a top edge from him in the fourth over, and Glenn Phillips, of all fielders, dropped him at deep square leg. Then, even after a lot of damage had been done, Mayank Dagar took a screamer diving to his right at deep midwicket off debutant Nitish Reddy, but because there was a dismissal involved, the umpires could check the height of this bouncer on replay. By a few centimetres, it was the second bouncer of the over, and instead of celebrating his maiden IPL wicket, Reddy was now bowling a free-hit.

Intent on during the middle overs

This was a chase, net run rate was important, the pitch had quickened up, the SRH attack wasn’t flash, but it was still a sight for sore eyes seeing Kohli not drop his intent in the middle overs. He was 29 off 19 at the end of the powerplay, and he scored 26 off the next 19 he faced.

Time and again, du Plessis stood and admired Kohli’s shots in awe. And when the spinners did manage a quiet three-over period of 18 runs, Kohli broke the spell with a slog-sweep against the turn of a left-arm spinner.

Landmarks arrived as matters of fact. Well before the 171-run stand ended, Kohli and du Plessis had had brought up the most prolific single IPL for an opening pair. Du Plessis went past 50 for the eighth time this IPL, the last three of them on the trot. Kohli went past 50 for the seventh time. The successful chase was only the third time RCB had won chasing 185 or more in the IPL, out of 36 times of asking. In less than two seasons, Gujarat Titans have done it the same number of times.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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