Royal Challengers Bangalore seem to have come back from the dead. In a matter of three matches, not only have their fortunes changed for the better they have also given ample evidence that they are peaking at the right time.
Death-overs bowling, their bugbear in the early phase of the tournament, is now in the hands of the seasoned Tim Southee and the ever-improving Mohammed Siraj.
In the recent past, Siraj was a bundle of nerves at the death — bowling wides, full tosses and half volleys — much to the delight of opposing batsmen. However, he seems to be lot more assured and sure of his intentions off late and that has contributed substantially to RCB lifting the quality of their death overs.
Importantly, they have also hit upon the right playing combination, especially as their foreign players, Moeen Ali and Colin de Grandhomme have pulled their weight at critical times.
In the post-match media interaction Moeen spoke of how the team could not always depend on Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers to get them the runs. Others too needed to chip in, he added.
On Thursday, playing his first IPL match at RCB’s home base, the England left-hand batsman and off spinner did much more than just ‘chipping in’. He literally tore into Sunrisers Hyderabad bowling with remarkable gusto.
Consequently, SRH were completely overwhelmed by his batting. He slammed six sixes and two fours in his 34-ball innings of 65 that overshadowed even the formidable batsmanship of De Villiers. The fact that Moeen was the dominant partner in the 107-run third-wicket partnership off just 57 balls says a lot for the astonishing quality of his aggressive batting.
SRH must feel they were ambushed on the night. They expected De Villiers to harry them, but were taken aback when Moeen turned on the heat and repeatedly slammed their bowlers into the stands.
In was a gem of an innings and along with the customary savage battering by De Villiers (69; 39 balls, 12x4, 1x6) made a mockery of SRH’s envious bowling attack.
RCB also threw in another pinch-hitter in Grandhomme, whose power and savagery were as brutal as anyone else’s in the match. His 40 in 17 balls (1x4, 4x6) and Sarfaraz Khan’s cameo of 22 not out in eight balls ensured that RCB added 69 runs in the final five overs to finish very strongly.
It was obvious from the first ball of the match that RCB had their eye on the Net Run Quotient. Every batsman, irrespective of the situation or the threat, went after the bowling in the single-minded pursuit of a big win.
In the process, leg spinner Rashid Khan benefitted by snaring all the three big RCB wickets. The trio — Kohli, de Villiers and Moeen — was dismissed when they threw caution to the wind in an attempt to clobber him.
RCB’s final total of 218 turned out to be a match-winning one. They just had to ensure that the margin of victory was huge (by T20 standards).
SRH had their moments, particularly when Kane Williamson 81 (42 balls, 7x4, 5x6) and Manish Pandey 62 not out (38 balls, 7x4, 2x6) were together. Their 135-run stand in 11 overs was almost as impactful as the partnership between ABD and Moeen, except that it was in a losing cause.
Williamson who seems to have grown by leaps and bounds in this IPL was at his magnificent best. But the target of 219 was a bit too overwhelming. Additionally, Yuzvendra Chahal bowled like a champion at challenging times while Umesh Yadav and Southee had their moments.
The immediate takeaway for RCB was undoubtedly the two points that boosted their tally to 12. But they would have also been happy with the way that a number of their players are rising to the challenge, especially while batting and bowling. The fielding continues to irk, a fact visible when bowler Southee slapped the bails out of place after yet another misfield off his bowling resulted in a boundary. (He copped a fine for this.)
RCB have their final league phase must-win game against a depleted Rajasthan Royals on the morrow. They need to win that match too in style to ensure that they are not edged out on net run rate. An encore, especially from ABD, Moeen, Grandhomme, Chahal, Siraj and Umesh would do very nicely.