IPL 9, RCB vs SRH: The Kohli-ABD-Sarfaraz show spells ominous signs for opposition
RCB might have needed just a fly-swatter to squash Sunrisers Hyderabad in their season opener. But they brought along massive hammers for the job.
Bengaluru has its own set of peculiar problems. While other IPL cities have elections and drought to grapple with this season, Bengaluru has been stumped by question-paper leaks. Consequently, its students were dragged back to examination halls.
This was a pity as one of Royal Challengers Bangalore's biggest fan bases was not around to see the team's batting passing its first test with flying colours, one "Universe Boss" failure notwithstanding.
RCB might have needed just a fly-swatter to squash Sunrisers Hyderabad in their season opener. But they brought along massive hammers for the job. Skipper Virat Kohli and crowd favourite AB de Villiers nailed a rapid staccato which left SRH's bowlers severely battered and bruised. Sarfaraz Khan's late cameo (35 no off 10 balls, 5x4, 2x6) then buried them, enabling RCB to post the highest IPL total (227/4) of the season.
So much so, that had this been a boxing bout instead of a T20 cricket match, the referee would have stepped in to stop the contest long before RCB pummeled SRH into a 45-run submission.
A lot of discussion before the start of the match was centered on who would be Chris Gayle's opening partner: New signing Shane Watson or traded India Test opener KL Rahul. The fact that RCB even have this sort of problem of choice reflects gloriously on their immense batting depth.
Skipper Kohli, who had opened the batting a few times last season to give the number three spot to de Villiers, decided that RCB needed to take the SRH bowling by the scruff of the neck and drive home a powerful message to rival teams: We are coming at you right from the start.
Kohli, in sensational form this past year or so, was primed to take on the new ball, and considering how Gayle is usually quite sedate at the start of the innings, his walking out as the West Indian's partner threw the gauntlet down to the rival bowlers.
An impressive aspect of RCB's display on Tuesday was how they played an overtly belligerent brand of cricket. The pitch they rolled out was a belter, on which stroke players could revel. Naturally, RCB could summon a lot more firepower than their opponents.
Gayle disappointed his supporters but there was hardly any opportunity to mope over his loss as two of the most aggressive practitioners of running between the wickets, Kohli and de Villiers, batted in whirlwind fashion. Their 157-run second wicket partnership came in just 87 balls, and was studded with brutal shots, deft placings and, above all, incredible running between the wickets.
While it was a veritable feast for RCB's thunderously vociferous fans, in the hospitality box, young Chinese expatriates employed by IPL's Chinese sponsor Vivo, were as clueless about the proceedings as the SRH team out in the middle. The Chinese were flummoxed by the incredible decibel levels of the home team supporters, while SRH were desperate to come up with answers that could silence them.
But Tuesday was simply not the day for silent treatment. Even the dismissal of Kohli (75 off 51 balls; 7x4, 3x6) failed to dampen the spirits of the crowd as Watson (19 with 3 sixes) kept up the tempo. Additionally, de Viliers, who has played many a stirring innings at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, once again gave RCB fans plenty to cheer about. Each one of his pulverising 82 runs (42 balls; 7x4, 6x6) sent the crowd into raptures.
To top it off, Sarfaraz Khan, who had an excellent outing with the India Under-19 team recently, literally scooped his Uttar Pradesh teammate Bhuvaneshwar Kumar into complete disintegration. Bhuvi bled 28 runs in the 19th over. Only Bangladeshi paceman Mustafizur Rahman came away with his reputation enhanced amidst the mayhem.
The only chance SRH had was when their skipper David Warner showed appreciation of the pitch by slamming a crunching 58 (25 balls; 4x4, 5x6). But the target was too stiff for one man and against a team that had great variety in bowling.
Off-spinner Parvez Rassol, in the playing 11 to counter SRH's trio of left handers — Shikar Dhawan, Warner and Eon Morgon — accounted for Dhawan early on. Try as Warner did, there was no impetus to carry the team past the post.
RCB hardly had to exert themselves, and Stuart Binny, although in the playing 11, was not called upon to either bat or bowl. Likewise, Mitchell Starc's absence was hardly felt as Kiwi paceman Adam Milne bowled at express pace.
Sure, these are very early days. But on current form, RCB, with their awesome firepower, looks the team to beat.
Kohli's announcement comes on the back of his decision to step down as India's T20 captain.
The IPL, which was suspended midway into the league in May owing to multiple COVID-19 cases in its bio-bubble, will resume in the UAE on Sunday.
Kohli along with other Indian players refused to take the field in the fifth Test against England at Old Trafford, after junior physio Yogesh Parmar became the fourth close-contact support staff to test positive for COVID-19.