IPL 2016: When Virat Kohli-AB de Villiers get together, impossible is nothing
A 115-run second wicket partnership between Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers led Royal Challengers to a comprehensive 9-wicket victory over Kolkata Knight Riders at the Eden Gardens on Monday night
Virat Kohli has clearly been practising the toss; on Monday, when it mattered the most, he called it right. And from there on, the Royal Challengers Bangalore were on song. It would not be an exaggeration to say the toss was the turning point of the match. Winning it facilitated the awesome RCB batting line-up chase a target; and comforted by this thought, its bowling unit bowled without undue pressure. Surely, bowling up front to the likes of Yusuf Pathan, Andre Russel, Manish Pandey, Robin Uthappa and Gautam Gambhir was easier than doing so in a chase, as RCB's much-maligned bowling unit would readily acknowledge. After all, the latter experience had been anything but pleasant when the teams clashed at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium a fortnight ago.
Thus Monday night, after the toss, was payback time. Additionally, RCB desperately needed the win to stay in the hunt. And how magnificently they turned on the heat to do just that!
Once again, it was the sublime batting of that magnificent duo, Kohli and AB de Villiers, which held centrestage. They have taken T20 batting to another level altogether. So much so, Chris 'Universe Boss' Gayle could not resist saying that the duo was a combine of superheroes Batman and Superman.
While RCB's batting might was never in doubt, its full import came when KKR skipper Gautam Gambhir admitted that his team had done everything right and had got the total they were aiming at. 183/five at a scoring rate of nine runs an over should have been sufficient in most cases, especially given KKR's bowling strength and the challenge of batting on a wearing Eden Gardens pitch. However, with RCB's trio of superstars bringing their A-game to the match, that task turned out to be a mere walk in the park.
More importantly for RCB, thunderous opener Gayle seemed to have got his mojo back. The Caribbean muscleman, whose previous eight innings had amounted to just 32 runs (4,5,4,1,0,7,5,6), chose the occasion and the stage to announce his return to form. He warmed up with two boundaries off South African paceman Morne Morkel, and simply stepped on the gas as only he can after that.
Kohli, realising that Gayle was striking the ball at his fluent best, decided to give as much strike as possible to him. Gayle's four sixes included a mishit off Piyush Chawla that still cleared long-on. Yes, the master blaster was back in business! His 71-run first wicket partnership with Kohli came off a mere 7.3 overs, and was the perfect launchpad for the chase. Gayle missed his 50 by a solitary run but any joy at his dismissal quickly evaporated as that brought together T20 cricket's most destructive pair of Kohli and ABD.
The very sight of the duo batting together could be sending shivers down the spine of the opposition. Everything about them reeks of calculated aggression — from blasting the bowlers to all parts of the ground to running the fielders ragged. Their running between the wickets is poetry in motion, except that the constant flirting with danger lends an unbelievable thrill to the act. They don't just run singles, twos and threes. They steal them from under the very nose of the fielders. It is this living on the edge which makes their batting such an exhilarating sight to behold.
Then there are those brutal shots, flat-batted or smashed into the stands that leaves the field standing. Those reduce the best of bowlers to mere punching bags. Kohli and ABD's five century stands this season is not just a testimony to their consistency, but also an indication of their dominance over bowling attacks. Kohli (75 not-out off 51 balls, 5x4, 3x6) during the course of his innings set a new mark (732) for the most runs in an IPL season. ABD (59 not-out in 31 balls, 5x4, 3x6) follows at a distant second with 597.
The nine-wicket win puts RCB in the right frame of mind for their next two league matches, both of which they need to win. In short, RCB seem to be peaking at the right time and the momentum is decidedly with them. Hopefully pre-monsoon showers would stay away, at least for the duration of their matches.
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