Virat Kohli’s ‘sweet 16’ moment - the unforgettable summer of 2016 - is turning out to be a phenomenal one for him. Four scorching T20 centuries in a season that is not over as yet epitomises the champion batsman’s complete dominance of the ninth edition of the IPL.
Not even an injury which required eight stitches on the webbing of his top hand could stop the magnificent Kohli from registering yet another record-breaking knock. World cricket’s most exciting batsman disregarded the discomfort of the injured hand, adopted his team’s tag line –Play Bold – as his very own, and batted like a man possessed, to smash the King’s XI Punjab bowlers to smithereens on a wet and murky Wednesday. Pointedly, his team Royal Challengers Bangalore and he made light of the forced reduction in the number of overs.
The skies had opened up 90 minutes before the scheduled start of the match and thoroughly soaked everything in sight. However, thanks to the Karnataka State Cricket Association’s superior rain covers and a plethora of mopping-up gizmos the ground was made match-ready before long. Still, the delayed start ensured that the game was reduced to 15 overs a side.
RCB suffered another setback when they lost the toss and were asked to take first strike. This could have been an issue for RCB if the rains had interfered again at an inopportune time. In that case, the home side, who desperately needed to win this match to stay in contention, would have been left to the mercy of the imperfect Duckworth-Lewis rain rule.
Thus RCB decided not to leave things to the mercy of the rain gods and opted to take the issue by the scruff of the neck. They came out blazing through their opening batsmen Chris Gayle and Kohli. Gayle had already given notice of his return to form when he made a punishing 49 in the previous encounter against KKR. On Wednesday night he and Kohli went hell for leather from the start.
The manner in which they put the King’s XI bowling to the sword was nothing short of spectacular. On a pitch with a fair amount of carry their brazen pyrotechnics sent the packed KSCA Stadium crowd into delirious raptures. The strong-arm tactics of Gayle (73, 32b, 4x4, 8x6, SR 228.12) announced his return to predatory ways in no uncertain terms. In Kohli (113, 50b, 12x4, 8x6, SR 226) he found a partner just as intent in stamping his authority on the bowlers and the duo went to town with some of the most brutal hitting of a cricket ball in this neck of the woods.
Their 147-run opening partnership in a mere 11 overs killed the match as a contest. KXIP did not have even a ghost of a chance after such a rollicking start. Hence, all subsequent interest was focused solely on Kohli’s ability to notch up his fourth century in the four overs remaining. And he did it in a canter.
Kohli admitted after the match that he was apprehensive about his ability to grip the bat owing to the injury on his left hand. “My hand would not close on the bat handle. So I padded it up to fill the gap and after the first 10 balls just got into the zone and forgot all about the injury,” he said.
It was this single-minded devotion to the task by the skipper and ably adopted by the rest of the team that literally swamped KXIP. A total of 211 for 3 would have been substantial in a 20 over game. But with Gayle and Kohli clobbering the attack, and KL Rahul (16 in 6 balls) coming up with a cameo towards the end, RCB carved out that total in just 15 overs.
After that only the dubious Duckworth- Lewis rain rule could have lowered RCB’s colours. But Kohli ensured that his bowlers and fielders scampered around to push through as many overs as possible before the rains came down again. By then KXIP (120 for 9 in 14 overs) had been literally flattened.
The win catapulted RCB to second spot in the table and a win against Delhi Daredevils in their final league match to be played on Sunday should see them making a remarkable surge into the play-offs.