May 18, 2018
Kohli Afghanned down
The IPL was still in its first week and RCB was desperate for its first win after losing in Kolkata a few days earlier. Virat Kohli was keen to make a mark and lead from the front in the game against KXIP, but had not seen much of Afghan teenager Mujeeb Ur Rehman. After being kept quiet for four deliveries, the India skipper decided to unfurl his trademark cover drive to a flighted delivery outside off-stump. What transpired could still qualify as the most memorable moment, still standing out from the clutter of daily slam-bang matches over a month and a half.
Kohli failed to read the 17-year-old’s sharply turning googly, which made its way between the master batsman’s bat and pad to hit the top of middle stump. Kohli was left dumbfounded.
Ten days ago, when SRH hosted Kohli and his men, he seemed all at sea against Rashid Khan and was even dropped at slip. In the return fixture on Thursday, Kohli was determined to show who is boss.
After three dot balls, he got on to a Rashid short ball, pulling it over midwicket for a boundary. But just four runs off the over would have still given the Afghan leg-spinner bragging rights. So Kohli aimed to put the next ball into the stands and went for an uncharacteristic slog-sweep, missing the ball which rattled the middle and off-stump.
Now, Kohli will not be part of Afghanistan’s inaugural Test match, at the same venue next month as he would be busy playing county cricket ahead of the Test series in England. He may or may not have a point to prove as he does in Old Blighty, but for now the Afghan teenagers seem to have the wood on him.
Mo-Show… with ABD
When the tournament started, the quartet of Kohli, AB de Villiers, Brendon McCullum and Quinton de Kock were expected to set the stage alight. As the league phase entered its decisive phase, the last two names no longer make the playing XI. After a lot of chopping and changing, the RCB team management decided to push Moeen Ali up the order for the do-or-die match.
The England all-rounder is out of the Test team for now after having a horror time of it in Australia and New Zealand.
The IPL is his only avenue to fame and he knew it. He gave the RCB faithful belief after the Kohli disappointment. It was helpful that he had de Villiers at the other end, though Moeen sometimes put the dazzling South African in the shade. Contributing 65 off 34 balls with six sixes was the boost the hosts needed. De Villiers 69 in 39 and the third-wicket stand added 107 in just 57 balls, as the IPL’s best bowling attack, albeit missing Bhuvneshwar Kumar, was taken to the cleaners. One of de Villiers’s sixes, a sweep off a quick bowler soared over 100m.
Even though the two were dismissed in the same over – by Rashid, who else – Colin de Grandhomme and Sarfraz Khan made sure the momentum was not lost and the target set was a steep one.
Last season, Basil Thampi was one of the finds of the tournament with his pace, attitude and ability to bowl pinpoint yorkers under pressure. Getting Chris Gayle with a searing toe-crusher got people talking. But what happened on Thursday could charitably be called character-building.
Having the most expensive bowling figures in IPL history can hardly be enjoyable, but though Thampi did not have one of his best days with the ball, he can console himself by thinking that he fell prey to some great hitting on a flat pitch and small ground. His first two balls went the distance, with Moeen Ali hitting a full one over long-on and then anticipating a shorter one, which went over midwicket.
It was all downhill from there and for once, skipper Kane Williamson was left devoid of options as he had gone into the match with just five bowlers.
Day of catches
Twenty20 cricket is often characterised by big hitting, but sometimes the most abiding memories from a match can be the stupendous fielding efforts. First Shikhar Dhawan showed remarkable poise, judgement and balance to snaffle de Villiers on the boundary. Then, Rashid plucked one sent soaring over his head by de Grandhomme at the death as if he was plucking a low-hanging fruit from a tree.
But the most stunning catch of the evening was the one by de Villiers, who showed hang time that could have made any NBA star proud.
Alex Hales hoicked Moeen Ali towards the midwicket boundary and the ball seemed to be flying over the South African’s head. De Villiers leapt in the air, just as the ball swerved away from him. The Protea talisman just stuck a hand out, while still suspended in the air, and landed just inside the boundary line and held his balance to complete the catch. De Villiers’ feats with the bat can sometimes take one’s breath away, but is his magical fielding prompted his skipper and teammates dash towards him in awe and admiration.
Kane can… but couldn’t
Kane Williamson is considered a textbook player, but in this IPL he has reinvented himself to be as versatile as the other members of the Big Four club. Here, chasing a huge total, the Kiwi captain had to play a lone hand and almost pulled off the improbable. Some of his shots were sublime and the placement jaw-dropping. He also showed he has learnt a trick or two, unfurling the lap shots and other improvisations.
It was an innings that didn’t deserve to finish on the losing side, but with the other half-centurion Manish Pandey failing to pull his weight as far as strike rate was concerned, the league leaders fell short.
SRH is considered top-heavy as far as batting is concerned, but with the openers not providing the required ballast, it became a climb too steep, even for the brilliant Kiwi captain.