New Delhi: This was the second time in two days that batsmen from the chasing sides in the IPL fixtures made a mess of meager totals. On Thursday, SRH's photo finish took the spotlight off their bowlers, who had restricted MI to 147. 24 hours later, RCB too made KXIP's 155 a tricky chase, winning the match by 4 wickets in the final over with just three balls to spare.
Despite AB de Villiers hand-holding the team to safety with a knock of 57, it was Umesh Yadav's fiery three-wicket spell early in the KXIP innings that placed the hosts perfectly for their first win. The Vidarbha pacer rattled the opposition with serious pace and knocked down three Punjab wickets in the fourth over to power RCB wrest control of the proceedings. Umesh first got Mayank Agarwal caught behind, then trapped Aaron Finch the next ball. Two balls later, he splattered Yuvraj's timber as the Punjab southpaw failed to come forward and was exposed. A ball earlier, he had pulled Yadav for a four and was expecting the same from him the next ball.
If Punjab suffered due to losing wickets in lumps, RCB too had phases in which the momentum shifted in Punjab's favour. That is how quickly things turn in this format. But if you were to compare the two batting sides, who took almost the same time to reach 155, RCB clinched the advantage owing to the crucial stands that happened for them. Punjab weren't able to develop stands in the middle and only looked to go for big hits. Punjab had just two stands of 32 and 58 while RCB had a couple of fifty run partnerships in the middle overs and a 32-run stand at the top. Punjab, despite having lost their big batters, lost four wickets from 11-15 overs, a phase considered as the most important in T20. Yes, the start does matter but the middle phase holds a lot of importance. Only Ashwin batted with confidence and got 33 to his name to take Punjab to 155.
But it was totally unexpected that KXIP could really make a match out of such small total. Credit to KXIP skipper R Ashwin who sensed that the wicket was slightly on the slower side and opted for spin straightaway. His ploy worked the very first ball as dangerous Brendon McCullum was sent back by Axar Patel. Virat Kohli and Quinton de Kock stitched an important 32-run stand before Kohli getting castled by a googly off Afghanistan spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman. De Kock looked in outstanding touch as he made great use of his footwork to flay the Punjab bowling. AB De Villiers too took his chances and made sure RCB were well ahead of the chase. The duo had put on 54 before De Kock was castled by an Ashwin straighter one on 45. The following ball, Ashwin turned legspinner and got Sarfaraz in the slip.
It was around the 11th over mark when Punjab got back into the game on the back of Ashwin's twin strikes. RCB required 69 in 51 balls with De Villiers and Mandeep together. The duo negated the spin well and waited for the pacers to come into the attack. They made sure they ran well to remain in the chase. In the 17th over, as RCB needed 41 runs off the last four overs, Ashwin deemed it right to use Mujeeb. But the young spinner caved in under pressure and bowled flat to aid De Villiers' charge. He got hit for two sixes and a four in that over.
Later, in the penultimate over, Andrew Tye struck twice, getting both De Villiers and Mandeep in the same over to make the game interesting again. Sundar walked in slashed one over third man for a boundary off Mohit Sharma and then crunched one through cover to seal the game for RCB.