Two days can be a long time in international cricket, and Royal Challengers Bangalore’s (RCB) bowlers would be among the first to attest to it. Their bowling, that was good enough to restrict a rampaging Kings XI Punjab for 155 runs in 20 overs on Friday night, was put to sword by the marauding Rajasthan Royals on Sunday as they hurtled to a 19-run loss on their home turf.
Asked to bat first on a flat Chinnaswamy surface, Royals were given the early thrust from skipper Ajinkya Rahane’s 20-ball 36, before Sanju Samson’s unbeaten 45-ball 92 blew the hosts away. Later, cameos from Jos Buttler and Rahul Tripathi propelled the hosts to 217.
Statistics tell the tale: 76 runs conceded by RCB in first 10 overs, 141 runs in next 10, 75 in last four. Their star bowler from last two matches, Umesh Yadav, was taken for 59 runs in his four overs. Left-arm pacer Kulwant Khejroliya, who had picked up two wickets against Kings XI Punjab, bled 40 runs from his three wicketless overs and Chris Woakes’ two wickets came at the cost of 47 runs.
Unlike their previous games, when skipper Virat Kohli went with only five bowlers, RCB took the field with six on this occasion — all-rounder Pawan Negi making way for the under-performing Sarfaraz Khan. The left-hander though had a poor match; his solitary over went for 13 runs, and his stay at the batting crease was worth three runs. With four of Kohli’s six bowlers having an off day, and Samson in murderous rage, RCB were left with a mountain to climb.
In hindsight, one may question Kohli’s decision to field an extra spinner at the short Chinnaswamy Stadium, when he has the likes of Colin de Grandhomme, Tim Southee, and Corey Anderson to choose from. That, however, would mean getting rid of either Brendon McCullum or Quinton de Kock at the top, with Kohli reverting to the opener’s slot.
One may also understand Kohli’s decision to field Negi. Four of Royals’ top six bat right-handed, and it’s not easy to hit against the conventional turn, something that Negi showed despite the expensive solitary over. He almost got rid of Samson first ball, but the mistimed inside-out loft fell short of the fielder in sweeper cover. Then, on the last ball of that over, he drew an edge from Buttler. However, absence of slips meant not only did the chance go abegging, but also the batsman collected a boundary. The only poor delivery Negi bowled was the third ball of the over, which, pitched short, was duly pulled for six by Samson.
That was the 14th over of the innings, and Kohli went back to pace to end the innings. Five of the remaining six overs were bowled by pacers; the only over bowled by spinner — Yuzvendra Chahal — yielded four runs. The other five overs, bowled by Umesh, Woakes and Khejroliya, went for 88 runs, 27 of which came in the 20th over, bowled by Umesh.
The hosts tried gamely, led by an imperious 30-ball 57 from Kohli, but RCB’s fate was effectively sealed in the fag end of Royals’ innings. Washington Sundar (19-ball 35) and Mandeep Singh (25-ball 47 not out) stitched a 50-run alliance off 27 balls, something that RCB can take heart from going into the high-octane clash against Mumbai Indians at Wankhede Stadium in two days’ time. Kohli did rule out drastic changes in the starting XI, but one may expect some tweaks in the bowling line-up. Getting a pace-bowling all-rounder might be a good start.
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