When AB de Villiers or Virat Kohli brings the entire force of his batting might to bear on an opposition, the result is a particularly brutal form of carnage. When both do so in the same innings, the devastation is nuclear. Such was the case on Saturday afternoon at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. The two batsmen made near-perfect centuries to power Royal Challengers Bangalore to 248 and set up a 144-run victory – a record margin in the IPL -over the shell-shocked Gujarat Lions.
De Villiers’ unbeaten 52-ball 129 and Kohli’s 55-ball 109 decimated an increasingly feckless and indisciplined bowling attack; they required just 96 balls to put on a T20 record stand of 229. It was also only the second instance of two batsmen scoring centuries in the same innings in 5703 T20s. As the innings unfolded, a stream of boundaries became a raging river, with 15 fours and 20 sixes sinking the rickety boat on which the Lions bowlers were cowering.
The result was invaluable to Royal Challengers, for a defeat would have all but eliminated them from the playoffs. This margin of victory, however, ensured they stayed in contention and gave them the best net run-rate in the competition.
The onslaught came from nowhere. Brendon McCullum, standing in as Lions captain after Suresh Raina missed his first IPL match in nine years, opted to bowl and his opening bowlers got the side off to an excellent start. Praveen Kumar and Dhawal Kulkarni bowled with impressive control to tie down Royal Challengers’ openers, with Kulkarni dismissing a scratchy Chris Gayle in the fourth over to reduce Royal Challengers to 19 for 1. Gayle had departed for his fifth single-digit score in as many matches, the innings was going nowhere, and the Lions fielders seemed to be buzzing.
But when spin was introduced in the fifth over, the game began to change. Chinaman bowler Shivil Kaushik delivered a string of half-trackers to allow Kohli and de Villiers to cut loose. Pravin Tambe, brought on for the next over, faced a similar fate and Royal Challengers were accelerating. In the scheme of things, the fact that those two overs conceded 23 runs turned out to be less relevant than the floodgates that they opened.
For much of the innings, de Villiers commanded centre-stage, unleashing his full repertoire of sweeps, lofts and drives. While the midwicket and long-on regions came in for a special peppering, no part of the ground was spared as the ball was regularly send soaring. Kohli played second-fiddle to de Villiers for the most part, but took on the starring role in the last three overs, pillaging 57 off his last 14 balls to bring up his third century of this IPL season – also a record – and lift his side to an imposing 248.
After having scored 81 off their first 11 overs, Royal Challengers smashed 167 off the last nine. In the midst of this whirlwind, Ravindra Jadeja was the only one of seven Lions bowlers to escape with an economy rate of under 10.
The hammering they had received and the enormity of the task before them weighed heavily on Lions’ batsmen in their reply. The early loss of Dwayne Smith set the tone for a limp innings in which wickets fell at regular intervals and the run rate never approached the levels that were required. Chris Jordan and Yuzvendra Chahal made the most of the situation to bag figures of 4 for 11 and 3 for 19 respectively, before Sachin Baby took two in two to put the finishing touches on a royal spanking.
2015 Kashmir Despatch