One of the most expensive lessons Royal Challengers Bangalore learnt this season was that batsmen alone cannot guarantee wins. A team could get by with just one or two batsmen firing all the time. But without a full complement of five decent bowlers to deliver the 20 overs in every match, they would almost always be in a pickle.
On Sunday, RCB’s goose was cooked when Sunrisers Hyderabad opted to play to their strength by backing their bowlers. The challenge was to get the sort of total that would give Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Mustafizur Rahman and company enough elbow room to do their job. A task that would not have seemed very daunting given that the bowling they had to pillage was RCB's decidedly effete attack.
Crucially, however, SRH were able to raise the bar for the final unlike RCB, who simply disintegrated. SRH's key players — David Warner, Bhuvi, Mustafizur, Ben Cutting, Shikhar Dhawan and Yuvraj Singh — rose to the challenge and lifted the quality of their game, while RCB's AB de Villiers choked yet again in a final. Shane Watson, Chris Jordon and KL Rahul, three other players central to RCB's scheme of things, also flopped when called to step up and take the battle to the opponents.
Perhaps it was all a matter of temperament, about handling the pressure of expectations. But when push came to shove, RCB players caved in without a fight.
It need not have been so, especially as Sreenath Arvind, Chris Gayle and Yuzvendra Chahal bowled splendidly on the day. Gayle's off-spin bowling was a massive bonus that Watson and Jordon simply failed to capitalise on. Significantly, Gayle bowled three overs (3-0-24-0) during the powerplay overs, when pressure on bowlers had peaked. His first two overs (2-0-11-0) kept SRH's renowned strokeplayers Warner and Dhawan in check. Arvind too bowled superbly to concede just 16 runs in his two powerplay overs. However, it was the arrival of the usually dependant Watson to the bowling crease for the fifth over of the match that wrecked RCB's impressive start. Watson was blasted for 19 runs in that over. He struggled with his length, a malady that impaired his bowling right through the match.
Still, RCB had their opponents in a spot at 158 for six at the start of the 18th over. A target of 185-190 would have been within easy grasp of the home team's famed batting line-up. And with RCB's best death bowlers, Watson and Jordon, in charge of bowling the last three overs, that should have been a shoo-in.
This is where things went awry. Ben Cutting epitomised power hitting with a breathtaking unbeaten 39 (15b, 3x4, 4x6) that simply swatted away all of Watson and Jordon’s pretensions of being death over specialists. Watson was clobbered for 36 runs in his final two overs while Jordon was plundered for 16 runs. In fact, the last eight balls cost RCB a whopping 34 runs and enabled SRH, who made 208 for 7 in the 20 overs, to finish on an incredible high.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar then took charge of the match. Hyderabad skipper David Warner simply could not stop singing Bhuvneshwar's praises at the post-match media conference, calling him one of the finest bowlers in world cricket. "He is turned on from the first ball, and the way he has delivered the goods match after match, both with the new ball and at the death, has been remarkable. We wanted a target of 200 and once we got there we knew the pressure would be on RCB's fabulous batting line-up," he said.
With the bat, RCB were off to a rollicking start, posting an opening stand of 114 in a mere 10.3 overs. It was an ideal start for chasing down such a huge target. Gayle and skipper Virat Kohli were watchful against Bhuvi even as the southpaw went after the other new ball bowler Barinder Sran.
Gayle was in his element. He had bowled well and fielded with enthusiasm and was in the right frame of mind for the chase. The capacity crowd at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium went berserk as he literally toyed with SRH's bowling in true vintage Gayle style. He blasted huge sixes into the stands besides smashing the boundary sign boards with abandon. He hammered eight sixes and four boundaries in his whirlwind 38-ball-76 before falling to man-of-the-match Cutting.
Kohli, who had earlier gone after Mustafizur in a bid to unsettle him, fell after yet another superbly crafted 54 (35b, 5x4, 2x6). All the hard work had been done by Gayle and Kohli, and all the rest had to do was simply put together 69 runs to drive home in a canter. But the wheels fell off the chase as ABD, Rahul and Watson fell in a jiffy and the rest did not have the ability to tackle last mile issues. RCB lost by 8 runs, its third defeat in an IPL final to remain a bridesmaid yet again.
Updated Date: May 30, 2016 12:42 PM