RCB vs KXIP: Punjab make heavy weather of simple chase

Kings XI scrape through off the final ball, in what seemed like a regulation chase, to register only their second win of the tournament. Bangalore err in holding back AB, Punjab don’t choke despite nervy stumble at the end.

Bangalore were 86 for 3 in the 11th over but AB de Villiers didn’t walk out. Instead, they opted for Shivam Dube and with Virat Kohli too unable to accelerate, the innings lost momentum. Chris Gayle and KL Rahul took the chase of 172 to the last over where they needed just two and nearly choked against Yuzvendra Chahal but Nicholas Pooran held his nerve to launch the last ball for a six to secure only their second win of the tournament. Both have come against RCB.

Where was AB?

The question that left everyone scratching their heads was why didn’t de Villiers come out to bat at the fall of Washington Sundar in the 11th over? It can’t be because of de Villiers’ supposed vulnerability against the googly, even if he has been dismissed seven times since IPL 2018 by it, and has a strike rate of 100 against googlies. That would be insulting to the South African genius even if Kings XI Punjab had two leggies in M Ashwin and Ravi Bishnoi. Or was it because of the clichéd right-left combination theory? “It was for left hand-right hand combination,” Kohli said later. “We had a discussion. They had two leggies. Sometimes, decisions you take don’t come off.”

READ | Virat Kohli on why AB De Villiers was pushed down to 6

In the past, de Villiers’ partnership with Kohli in the last four overs has been insanely productive, averaging 68 at a strike rate of 13.57 an over. To explode like that, though, de Villiers needed to have a few balls to settle down.

Dube before de Villiers was a negative decision, especially when most oppositions know how to tie up the left-hander. Bangalore had to thank Chris Morris, who provided a spectacular finish, slamming an 8-ball 25 and taking 24 runs, in collaboration with Isuru Udana, off the last over bowled by Mohammed Shami.

Punjab choke… almost

That was the only way they could have lost this, especially after Bangalore’s best bowler Chahal went for 28 runs in two overs and their second best, Washington Sundar was taken out by Chris Gayle, playing his first game this IPL.

But since this is Punjab, one couldn’t take one’s eyes off the chase. They needed just two in the final over from Chahal and after two dot balls, Gayle dragged one to wide long-on and even though there was a diving stop, they ran just a single. Rahul almost cut the fourth ball straight into the point fielder’s hands, and Gayle had a wry smile before the fifth ball. He was run out going for the impossible and as panic set in the dugout – did Anil Kumble, the coach, ever look so tense in his playing days? – Nicholas Pooran charged out to just about clear long-on off the final ball. If it wasn’t for the small ground at Sharjah, he would have been out, but then he might not have tried it elsewhere.

Brief Scores: Kings XI Punjab 177/2 (KL Rahul 61 not out, Chris Gayle 53) beat Royal Challengers 171/6 (Virat Kohli 48, M. Ashwin 2/ 23) by 8 wickets.

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