It is easy to see why AB de Villiers is such a cult figure among Bengaluru’s cricket-loving fans. When he is on song, there is no better sight in T20 cricket. Chris Gayle might be the more powerful striker of a cricket ball but it is ABD’s mind-boggling dexterity which leaves the opposition stumped and his fans thirsting to lap up more.
The impressive aspect of ABD’s foray to the crease is the boundless energy he brings to his batting. This, along with his complete disdain for a text-book approach to the task bamboozles the bowlers. He comes up with strokes that others cannot even dream of. He is just as apt to slog sweep a fast bowler as he is to hit him right back over his head. With him, the bowler just does not know which stroke is coming next. The fielding side simply have to be prepared for all eventualities.
Friday was decidedly one such night. And there was vintage ABD to cherish and admire. Sweeps, reverse sweeps, stepped out pulls off fast bowlers, classical drives and delectable cuts flowed off his bat and slammed into the boundaries with the rapidity of a machine-gun fire. He deposited deliveries from outside the line of the off stump to the square leg region, and just as deftly reverse-swept ones from leg stump line to the off. Above all, there was there was the brilliant running between the wickets.
In short ABD took the art of batsmanship to another level altogether. He might have slowed down somewhat towards the fag end of his innings. But for most part of his innings, he was racing ahead at a fantastic strike rate of 200. The stunning aspect of his innings of 83 off 46 balls (6x4, 4x6; strike rate of 180.4) was that it came on a sluggish pitch which was not really conducive to stroke play!
The true indicator of his genius was that he made an in-form batting super star like Virat Kohli seem listless in comparison. However, the biggest tribute to his character and batsmanship came from Kohli himself. After the match, the captain revealed that he was getting frustrated by his inability to time his strokes when ABD stepped up and talked him into keeping his end going. The South African told him he would have the confidence to go for his shots if he had the assured presence of the skipper batting at the other end.
“That settled me down. His brilliant scoring rate also gave me breathing space,” said Kohli who slammed 80 from 63 balls (7x4, 2x6). Their second wicket partnership of 155 runs in 95 deliveries was just the shot in the arm RCB so badly required to pep up their floundering campaign.
In reflection, it could be said that RPS did not bowl badly. It was just that their bowlers were mugged in front of a full house and under lights by two master craftsmen. Skipper MS Dhoni’s acknowledgement that his team was confronted by a “par plus score” said it all.
It also revealed why only RCB have been able to buck the trend of chasing and winning matches this season. Of the 16 matches played, 14 have been won by the team batting second. But RCB, not once, but twice, have run up such a huge total that Sunrisers Hyderabad and now RPS could not get to it.
Decidedly Friday’s game was all about ABD and Kohli, even when they were not batting. They simply could not be kept out of the action. Kohli sensationally ran out danger man Steve Smith very early in the innings while ABD held a couple of brilliant catches, which accounted for Dhoni and M Ashwin.
It was just as well, for RCB’s bowling almost floundered all over again. Medium pacer Harshal Patel went blank when he was being swatted by Thisara Perera while Stuart Binny struggled to find the right length.
However, debutant Tabraiz Shamsi was impressive with his chinaman and googly bowling. He came on to bowl at a difficult time but struck the right line and pace to leave an impression. It would not have been easy to bowl to Ajinkya Rahane, a very good player of spin bowling, and Dhoni. But the South African Shamsi, who was pressed into the match as soon as he arrived as replacement for the injured Samuel Badree, handled it splendidly to show that he would be in the mix in a few key games at least.
RCB’s win by the skin of the teeth has given them a second life, especially after losing all the tosses thus far. ABD, who pulled the fat out of the fire this time, has left the team looking forward to their next scuffle — against the roaring Gujarat Lions in their den.