After weeks of pain and agony, Kings XI Punjab, led by their spinners and skipper KL Rahul, broke their unwanted losing streak to make it 2/2 wins versus RCB in IPL 2020. After a fine effort with the ball, the KXIP top-order was ruthless with the bat in their quest of chasing 172 on a slow wicket.
Powerplay exploitation: RCB 9/10 and KXIP 10/10
After adopting a rather cautious approach up-front in their last game versus KKR, the RCB openers, today, showed intent in abundance. Both Finch and Padikkal, by the fourth over, had a four and a six to their name and while the former negated the movement by dancing around the wicket, the latter bullied the bowlers with his wrists. In fact, so clear and positive were RCB with their approach that even after Padikkal perished, they did not take the foot off the pedal, with skipper Kohli scoring 16 runs off the 8 balls he faced inside the powerplay. RCB bore fruit for their proactive approach as they notched up 57/1 off the first six on a tiring wicket. Clinical as it gets.
“What you can do, we can do better,” said Mayank and Rahul to the RCB openers as they dished out a proper masterclass up-front. Despite the pitch slowing down, the two took the aerial route - versus both pace and spin - and nailed every bad ball - sometimes even the good ones - to the boundary. Rahul, for one, seemed like he’d taken the “you bat slow” comments a tad too seriously, as he hit two maximums inside the first six today. 56/0 was what they managed in a flawless powerplay. That said, it was bizarre to see RCB not use their trump card, Washington Sundar, inside the first six.
Middle-overs maneuvering - RCB 5/10 and KXIP 8/10
‘Bizarre’ is all that could be used to describe RCB’s showing in the middle-overs today. Sure, there was some exceptional bowling from the Kings XI spinners, but RCB’s approach in the middle, particularly between overs 7-14, left a neutral perplexed. After losing Finch in just the 7th over, the Reds, weirdly, sent in southpaws Sundar and Dube ahead of de Villiers, at 4 and 5 respectively, and together the duo added 34 runs in the 28 balls they faced in the middle-overs. Until the 15th over bowled by Bishnoi - where Dube hit a couple of sixes - there wasn’t an iota of intent shown by the batters against what, at times, looked like pedestrian bowling. That Maxwell, a part-timer, snuck in 3 overs in the middle for just 20 runs should tell you about how RCB approached this phase. 66/2 was what they managed in 9 overs.
Like RCB, KXIP, too, lost one of their openers early into the second phase - Mayank perished in the 8th over - but their approach couldn’t have been any more contrasting. Unlike their counterparts, Kings XI showed intent right from the word go and were hell-bent to keep up with the required run rate. Rahul corrected his wrongs from the previous matches by being positive with his approach - he took Siraj for two sixes in one over - and after an uncharacteristically slow start, the Universe Boss, too, eventually got a move on. The KXIP batters, smartly, did not let the RCB spinners dominate proceedings and in fact took Washington Sundar for 24 off the 3 overs he bowled between overs 7 and 15. 70/1 in a chase of 172 is fantastic, you’d imagine.
Death bowling - KXIP 7/10 and RCB 3/10
For a team that entered this game with the reputation of being the “worst death-bowling side in IPL”, KXIP did an outrageously good job in the final five - until the very last over. Oh well, I guess it is a part of KXIP’s identity now, to screw up at the death. After conceding just 25 runs between overs 15 and 19, a 24-run final over from Shami - who bowled some hideous pies - undid all the good work the bowlers had done up until that point. For once, both Rahul’s captaincy and Jordan’s execution were on point but all that and more went for a toss thanks to Morris and Udana treating Shami like a club bowler. 49 off the last 5 is magnificent, yes, but really, it should have been no more than 35.
Needing to defend 45 off the final five, the RCB bowlers still had an outside chance to pull off a heist - much like what Delhi did yesterday - but lack of discipline meant that everyone travelled the distance. Sundar, for the first time in the tournament, looked broken and Siraj produced a rather underwhelming effort to round off a disastrous day at the office. A day and a phase they would like to forget, that’s for sure.
Ground fielding and catching - KXIP 8.5/10 and RCB 7.5/10
Barring a Deepak Hooda misfield in the powerplay that went for a boundary, and a few lapses in concentration from Rahul behind the stumps, KXIP were pretty sharp on the fielding front. RCB did pinch an extra few runs here and there - that’s always bound to happen with Kohli - but KXIP were all but flawless barring that. The catching was exceptional, albeit they only had to gobble up simple ones.
Like KXIP, RCB, too, had their fair share of misfields - both Kohli and Siraj had slip-ups in the powerplay and AB also had an uncharacteristically dull outing behind the stumps. They did hit the stumps on multiple occasions though, to remind the KXIP batsmen that any quick single could be potentially fatal. All in all, a pretty decent effort; no slip-ups or blunders unlike their previous games.
Highs and Lows
For 22 overs, the Sharjah wicket looked like a pretty darn tough wicket to bat - and then Mayank Agarwal happened. As if he’d been transported to the Sharjah wicket in the KXIP vs RR game, Mayank, through eloquent wristwork, graciously carved the RCB bowling apart inside the powerplay. Cricketing eyegasm at its very best.
That AB de Villiers perished early was disappointing, but what was infuriating - and what served as a genuine low point - was the circumstance behind his innings. He was, flabbergastingly, held back until the 16th over of RCB’s innings - citing his poor record versus leg-spin - and was given just 24 balls to make a difference. Another lesson for teams to never let ‘match-ups’ dictate how they go about their business.
RCB would perhaps look back at the move to send AB de Villiers as late as No.6 as the point where they lost the encounter. Barring the final outburst from Udana and Morris, the Reds’ innings had no momentum whatsoever and, post Punjab’s ruthless display with the bat, it did feel like RCB were a good 10-15 runs short. Kohli would be looking at the middle-overs and thinking that his side lost the game right there.
Match Frenzy O Meter - Very good
A riveting contest between bat and ball right from ball one; a high quality contest in which only the very best prevailed. Certainly an upgrade from the plethora of one-sided matches we’ve had over the course of the last week.