April 27th is not World Alien Day, but the man who is not from this planet played his best knock of IPL 2021, yet, to propel RCB back to the top of the table. On a sticky wicket where specialist batsmen timed the ball like tail-enders, de Villiers casually struck 75*(42) to set up the game for RCB.
Where Delhi lost the game
With the 23-run Stoinis over. Pant marshalled his troops perfectly for a vast majority of the Bangalore innings, but the tactical blunder of giving Stoinis the final over tilted the complexion of the game. RCB, despite AB’s efforts, should have ended with a 155-ish score, but they ended up scoring 171. In an ideal world, Pant should either have slipped in the Stoinis over somewhere in the middle, or should have gotten one over more out of Amit Mishra when AB and Patidar were still at the crease.
Has Virat Kohli’s ruthless self disappeared?
For the past 18 months and more, Kohli has looked in great nick pretty much every time he’s walked out to bat. Yet while his numbers are very good - definitely above average - he seems to have lost the magic - the ruthlessness to keep delivering clinical performances on a consistent basis. Take your mind back to the 90* he scored against CSK last year, in Dubai, after starting the season rather scratchily. Kohli was so flawless in that knock that it made everyone unanimously believe that he was well and truly back to his old, ruthless self. Yet, post the knock, he went on to score just a solitary fifty and a bunch of thirties and forties in the 9 games that followed, all of which came at a questionable strike rate. Fans and experts once again believed Kohli was ‘back to form’ after his 72 versus the Royals two games ago, yet that knock has been succeeded by two uncharacteristically loose innings. This - the absence of consistent ruthlessness - has been a feature in national colours too. Since the start of the Australia tour, Kohli’s knocks have flattered to deceive. Seldom has he backed up one very good knock with another and, often, the ‘world-class’ knock has been succeeded by a handful of unremarkable performances. Has Kohli’s ruthless self just disappeared, or are we reading too much into this?
RCB have finally found an able #3 - it is now imperative that they give him a long run
9, 18 and 27 are multiples of 9, but they are also the dates on which Rajat Patidar has featured in the RCB side this season. So, to say that the RCB management have been harsh on the Madhya Pradesh batsman would be a grave understatement. But today the 27-year-old showed promising signs and made a case for him to be a permanent #3 in the line-up, at least for the Ahmedabad leg of the season. RCB, this season, have shuffled between Sundar, Patidar and Shahbaz Ahmed for the #3 slot this season but Patidar’s knock today was, by some distance, the best inning played by a RCB #3 this year. At 30/2, with Kohli and Padikkal gone, Patidar would have been vindicated even if he’d lost his head but the right-hander focused on building partnerships and held fort to string two useful stands with Maxwell and de Villiers. More impressively he displayed clean hitting that he’s renowned for, and anchored at a SR of 140 by taking the odd risk in the midst of playing percentage cricket. Hesson and Kohli have openly shown their desire to go the ‘horses-for-courses’ route this season, but it would now be a blunder to not give Patidar a long run, for then the management will be back to square one in their hunt to find the ideal #3.
Ahmedabad games are going to be………...boring
If the first two games are anything to go by, then we can speculate that the Ahmedabad leg is going to be boring. Both the Kolkata-Punjab and Bangalore-Delhi clashes have overseen sluggish and slacky wickets with no pace, in which the ball has gotten stuck on the surface to make life extremely tough for batsmen. Well at least for batsmen not named AB de Villiers. Dew made life easy for the chasing side on Monday, but absence - or, rather, minimal presence - of dew today meant that the team batting second found it excruciatingly tough to hit the ball out of the square. The Chennai wicket produced close matches due to conditions remaining constant throughout, but there is a good chance that Ahmedabad might be witness to plenty of lop-sided games in the coming weeks. This is because teams chasing will walk away with the match in dew-affected games, while in other contests where dew does not play a telling part, chasing targets down will be a herculean task.
Hot take zone
Delhi need to take the harsh call of dropping KG Rabada
You could have put Radaba’s showing in the first two, or even three, games to rust, but it is now evident that he’s nowhere close to his best. As crazy as it sounds, Rabada, as things stand, is the weakest link in the DC bowling unit. That Rabada does not add a lot to the side in the powerplay is something that’s always been well known, but his USP has been his clutch at the back-end. This season, however, the South African’s grim showings at the death - ER close to 10 and just 3 wickets, despite playing in bowler-friendly wickets - have meant that his impact has almost been negative. With Ahmedabad providing plenty of assistance for the seamers with the new ball, DC continuing to bench Woakes, who took 5 wickets in 3 games at an ER just over 7 on flat Wankhede wickets, feels criminal. A new-ball duo of Woakes and Ishant could potentially be formidable, but it could also allow Pant to deploy Avesh Khan in just the big moments. Nortje is an alternative, but with Ashwin out of the tournament, Woakes will add invaluable depth to the batting.
Abraham Benjamin de Villiers. RCB, really, should be docked points for cheating, for this man right here is a walking cheat code. At 60/3 in the 9th over, RCB had no business getting to 170 on *this* wicket, but de Villiers, like he did in Sharjah last year, single-handedly propelled the side to a score at least 25 more than par. Come to think of it, it’s a farce that AB is not the highest earning player in the franchise.
Match Frenzy O Meter - A proper see-saw encounter
The AB-storm made a painfully slow first innings watchable, but after the game threatened to go one-sided, Shimron Hetmyer did an AB in the chase to turn a dull contest into a riveting one. A much, much better encounter than the snoozefest that was Punjab vs Kolkata.