April 08: On two occasions this season, Delhi Capitals have shown their propensity to implode in the home straight. Against Kolkata Knight Riders, they were poised to overhaul 185, before a middle-order collapse sent the game into Super Over. They would cross the finish line that night, but their batting was thoroughly exposed in the subsequent match against Kings XI Punjab. So, Virat Kohli would have been quietly confident even after his team’s below-par 149/8 after batting first at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.
Unsurprisingly, the visitors tried their best to shoot themselves in the foot yet again. Captain Shreyas Iyer’s 50-ball 67 and his 68-run partnership for the second wicket with opener Prithvi Shaw put them on course. But just when Delhi were on the verge of acing the chase, came that all-too-familiar collapse. From 145/3 in the 17th over, they would lose another three wickets in the space of just five deliveries.
Delhi walked home as the eventual winners, sealing a four-wicket win after Axar Patel clubbed Mohammad Siraj to the boundary on the penultimate delivery of the 19th over. As Bangalore went down to their sixth consecutive loss, they would perhaps look back at the final three overs of their innings where they could muster only 16 runs, as the phase that was the defining moment of this match.
There are fewer thrills in contemporary cricket than the sight of Kagiso Rabada bowling at full tilt. While pace continues to be his foremost ally, what makes batsmen fear is his control. Be it a toe-crushing yorker or a disconcerting bouncer — he whip up an range of unplayable deliveries on demand.
On a tricky pitch, where the Royal Challengers batsmen found it difficult to play their strokes, Rabada unfurled the cross-seamer to telling effect. It looks like a fairly innocuous delivery, in which the bowler just runs his fingers across the seam to bring down the pace of the delivery. However, this ploy helped Rababa con RCB’s two talismans — AB de Villiers and captain Virat Kohli — at vital junctures of the innings. Seeing the abrasive nature of the pitch, the Protea pacer had the brainwave of bowling this change-up delivery after seeing Ishant Sharma, his Delhi Capitals opening bowler, do the same in his opening spell. It was the supreme confidence in his abilities that helped Rabada pull off this act against two of the finest batsmen of modern era. De Villiers was batting on 17 and was threatening to rip apart Delhi’s bowling, when Rabada unleashed this potent weapon from his armoury.
It induces a mis-timed stroke from the 35-year-old, which was taken at long-on by Colin Ingram. When Rabada was summoned to bowl his final spell in the 17th over, Kohli was looking to cut loose. Almost on cue, he unleashed the cross-seamer again, which was holed out in the deep by the RCB captain. Rabada was not done for the day. He would follow that with scalps of Akshdeep Nath and Pawan Negi with the more traditional seam-up deliveries. The 24-year-old would finish with 4/21 to put his team in the ascendancy at the half-way stage.
Two nights ago, Virat Kohli gave the supportive Bangalore crowd something to cheer about in their otherwise listless campaign so far, when he struck a sublime 84 against the Kolkata Night Riders. Turned out it was a false hope. On Sunday afternoon, the Bangalore pitch, a diffident RCB batting line-up and resourceful bowling by Delhi halted the Kohli juggernaut.
After losing the toss, the RCB batsmen found it difficult to get a measure of this wicket. Kohli’s vigil was further dented by the lack of strike. Sample this: despite walking in as an opener, he would face just 9 deliveries in the opening 6.3 overs. This didn’t get any better as after the 16th over, he was unbeaten on 28-ball 27. Despite the lack of strike, Kohli was intent at staying till the end and taking his team’s total in excess of 160. For a fleeting moment it looked possible, especially after the manner in which he tore into Sandeep Lamichhane in the 16th over. But Rabada would have the last laugh, dismissing Kohli in the next over. Looking back, it was a strange innings from Kohli. His 33-ball 41 promised a lot more, but sadly lacked the firepower.