Punjabâ€™s bowling unit comes up trumps again as Bangaloreâ€™s dip in form continues
At the toss, RCB skipper Virat Kohli broke the news which all RCB fans (and certainly most cricket fans) were eagerly waiting to hear; the return of a certain Christopher Gayle to the side after injury. But ultimately, even the return of their talisman couldnâ€™t stop the Kings XI Punjab from inflicting another defeat on the Royal Challengers; their third loss in a row. Although Kohli would be feeling a little undone by the lack of temperament shown by his batsmen, all credit must be given to the Kings XI bowlers for their superb showing, in what was billed as one of the high-profile encounters by fans and pundits alike.
Put in to bat by Punjab skipper George Bailey, RCB got off to a flying start. 20 runs came off the first over from Glenn Maxwell; Gayle following two tentative boundaries with two confident sixes down the ground. But that is all he could offer, as he was clean bowled in the very next over, after a failed over-ambitious attempt to loft young Sandeep Sharma out of the ground. Kohli dispatched his first delivery to the point boundary in style. But a rare umpiring blunder from Billy Bowden on the very next ball gifted Sharma his second wicket in the space of three balls, as Kohli was wrongly adjudged leg-beforeÂ to a ball that was missing leg stump.
Two wickets in 3 balls soon became four wickets in 24 balls as Takawale and Parthiv Patel were dismissed in quick succession, with only 28 runs on the board. Yuvraj Singh and AB de Villiers led the fightback; RCB managing 44 runs from the powerplay overs with the loss of 4 wickets.
Yuvi looked in better touch than he has in recent games; he welcomed Balaji to his spell with an expansive drive and then lofted Akshar Patel over his favourite mid-wicket region for a maximum. The duo added 39 runs before a loose shot ended de Villiersâ€™ unusually quiet innings. His South African compatriot Albie Morkel added 25 runs with Yuvi before chopping a gentle medium pacer from Balaji onto his stumps.
With pressure building, Yuvraj (35 off 32) holed out in the deep as he tried to accelerate the scoring rate; RCB were 97/7, with all their specialist batsmen back in the hut. Starc and Aaron struggled to find the boundaries as RCB finished with a below-par score of 124 for 8. Man of the match, Sandeep Sharma, the hero in Punjabâ€™s previous game, shone with the ball again, with figures of 3 for 15.
Needing just over a run a ball, Sehwag and Pujara started slowly; 22 runs coming off the first four overs, with little fancy stroke play. Pujara was caught behind off Dindaâ€™s very first delivery in the fifth over. Wriddhiman Saha, promoted up the order, was sent back after Mitchell Starc plucked one out of thin air at fine leg. Sehwag continued to play his natural game at the other end; KXIP managing 40 runs off the first six overs. Starc then pulled off another stunner at fine leg to get rid of the dangerous Maxwell and suddenly RCB were looking to make serious inroads.
But any momentum RCB had was quickly taken away by David Miller, who smashed four boundaries in the space of eight balls, including three consecutive fours off Albie Morkel in the 11th over. Leg spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, one of the finds of the tournament so far, landed a double blow in the 13th over, as he dismissed Miller with a wrong one edged to the keeper and did the same to end Viruâ€™s resilient innings two balls later. But defending such a low total would always be a challenge and KXIP skipper Bailey (16 off 16), along with Rishi Dhawan (23 off 22) kept their heads to see their side home with 7 balls to spare.
With this win, Punjab extended their winning run in the IPL to eight games, as they remain the only unbeaten side in this yearâ€™s competition so far, and are most likely guaranteed a place in the play-offs. For RCB, a season that started brightly seems to be hitting a rough patch. Kohli & Co. need to get their act together quickly and hope that Lady Luck smiles on them more than it has in recent games. The return of Gayle is a big boost to a side that seems to be lacking the form and confidence necessary to produce good results on a regular basis, despite boasting one of the most well balanced squads.