At the toss, Kings XI Punjab captain KL Rahul said that his team was a little rusty coming into this game. One would tend to disagree, judging by the manner in which he bossed over Royal Challengers Bangalore’s bowlers. It was a dream performance from Rahul, showcasing elegance, poise, premeditation with a bit of mayhem thrown in towards the end. His unbeaten 69-ball 132 – the highest score by an Indian in the IPL – put up 207 as the target in front of Virat Kohli’s team, and they capitulated abysmally to lose by 97 runs.
To further make it a day to forget for Kohli, Rahul enjoyed two reprieves — both coming at the hands of his opposite number. But he rode his luck and the end of the day, his team was sitting pretty at the top of the points table at this early stage of the tournament.
It was the most one-sided contest in this edition so far. Chasing under lights with dew coming in later in the evening is supposed to make batting easier in the second innings, and captains winning the toss have chosen to field in every match. But there have already been five straight losses for the chasing teams.
Rahul shows his pedigree
It seems like there are two contrasting versions of KL Rahul on view with the bat. There’s the diffident, anxious man in whites who is unsure of his abilities and perpetually tormented by the moving red ball. But in the shorter formats, and more specifically in the IPL, he is a different beast altogether: insouciant, confident, and never missing out on an opportunity to dominate bowlers into submission. Rahul’s batting template is built on a sound, orthodox technique blending power with grace, and an overall aesthetic sense that gives his stroke-play a rare, ethereal quality.
All these attributes were on display in Dubai on Thursday as the 28-year-old put on a superlative exhibition of stroke-play that put the hapless RCB bowlers to the sword. Rahul hardly put a foot wrong. He had answers to almost everything thrown at him.
The RCB bowlers tried their best to catch him off guard. Dale Steyn and Umesh Yadav unleashed the slower off-cutters, Navdeep Saini tried to stifle him with pace, and Yuzvendra Chahal, Kohli’s bowling lynchpin, tried to entice with his googly. Nothing worked for RCB. It was one of those nights where everything that Rahul hit — even the ones mistimed — cleared the fence with ridiculous ease.
Another hallmark of Rahul’s batting was the manner in which he paced his innings. He had made up his mind to bat through the innings. So, in between threading boundaries and smashing sixes, Rahul ran hard between the wickets and kept churning the scoreboard through singles and twos without displaying a semblance of fatigue.
In the previous two games, we saw how Rohit Sharma and Steve Smith had failed to bat through and convert a promising start into a three-figure score in the energy-sapping heat of the UAE. Rahul, though, looked fresh even after such a physically demanding knock, and was back on the field keeping wickets in the second half of the game.
Rahul brought up his half-century off 36 deliveries, before teeing off towards the end of the innings, galloping from 90 off 60 to finish unbeaten on 132 off 69 at the end of 20 overs. In the process, Kings XI Punjab cantered past the 200-run mark, exposing RCB’s bowling woes at the death as they conceded 49 runs in the final two overs.
KXIP bowlers show how it’s done
Irrespective of the playing conditions and the nature of the pitch, chasing a score of 207 in an IPL game is always a difficult proposition. The task gets even more difficult if the batting team is up against a pace attack that consists of Sheldon Cottrell and Mohammad Shami. They have bowled well in tandem so far because of their attacking mindsets and the ability to get just that extra zip from these wickets. In a sense, they are quite similar in their approach to the Mumbai Indians opening pacers – Trent Boult and James Pattinson.
Consequently, scoreboard pressure backed up by the pace and precision of Cottrell and Shami was just too much to handle for the RCB. They accounted for Devdutt Padikkal, Josh Phillipe and captain Kohli in the first three overs that derailed their chase badly. From 5/3 in the third over, they meandered to 53/4 and when AB de Villiers departed for 28 in the ninth over, RCB had managed just 57 runs, with the result now a foregone conclusion. The spin duo of M Ashwin and Ravi Bishnoi devoured what was left.
Brief scores: Kings XI Punjab 206/3 in 20 overs (KL Rahul 132*, M Agarwal 26; S Dube 2/33) beat Royal Challengers Bangalore 109 all out in 17 overs (W Sundar 30, AB de Villiers 28; M Ashwin 3/21, R Bishnoi 3/32, S Cottrell 2/17) by 97 runs
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