For marquee clashes in the Indian Premier League, it seldom gets bigger than Mumbai Indians versus Royal Challengers Bangalore, though the stands not heaving with fans as they do due to the pandemic meant the intensity had to be built by the players.
Virat Kohli versus Rohit Sharma is no doubt mouth-watering though it was AB de Villiers, who has done all it takes to be crowned an all-time great and impact player, who stole the show in the first half.
IPL often produces play within play as someone stands up. After months without any cricket, Kohli struggled to shake off the rust and both he and Sharma failed. At the Dubai International Stadium De Villiers capped RCB’s big-hitting.
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Rohit Sharma chose to bowl despite only three out nine games having been won by teams chasing. It ended in a tie, second of the edition, after sensational hitting by Ishan Kishen (99-58b, 2×4, 9×6) and Kieron Pollard (60*-24b). RCB scored 201 and MI, despite an early wobble, reached 201/5 with Pollard’s last-ball four.
In the Super Over, MI were restricted to 7/1 by Navdeep Saini. RCB reached the target on the last ball of the Super Over with Virat Kohli hitting Jasprit Bumrah for a four.
It was the South African stalwart who energised RCB’s innings. De Villiers, 36 and very much the senior pro in IPL, too didn’t get much practice coming into IPL. After international retirement, his matches too are restricted to franchise cricket. There was hope he would come out of retirement to help South Africa in the 2019 ICC World Cup, but all that happened was debate around why it didn’t happen.
The South African though has been in great touch. The talk of slow pitches and big grounds has been left to the rest. De Villiers has kept producing his patent big shots, pushing bowlers on the defensive early in this edition. Will the Proteas seek him out for the 2021 T20 World Cup?
On Tuesday, the RCB innings, after being asked to bat first, had paused as Kohli (3 off 11 balls) had struggled to get going before being dismissed against Rahul Chahar’s spin. De Villiers took charge and produced stunning shots. Jasprit Bumrah felt the heat as hit short deliveries flew out of the ground.
De Villiers (55*- 24b, 4×4, 4×6), arguably the best athlete in international cricket for years, is also keeping wicket to give RCB great balance, and shake off the image as a lop-sided top-heavy batting unit of the past that seldom seemed to have a Plan B.
Young RCB opener Devdutt Padikkal (54- 42b, 5×4, 2×6) struck his second fifty in an IPL career that has started in sensational fashion. If he was the aggressor in his first half-century, the 20-year-old showed maturity as Aaron Finch (52-35b, 7×4, 1×6) laid into the bowling.
Their 81-run stand in nine overs was followed by the dip during Kohli’s brief stay, but Padikkal stepped it up during his 62-run stand with de Villiers, playing clean lofted shots.
De Villiers simply was the boss and year after year there is no sign his powers are waning. Trent Boult struck his helmet with a slow bouncer, but another short one two balls later flew over square-leg for six. Bumrah (0/42) struggled for rhythm on Monday—he had one dot ball in his four-over spell— and his short ball too was meted out the same treatment by the South African great.
Shivam Dube hit sixes off James Pattinson’s final over, the last one taking the score past 200. However, 22-year-old Ishan Kishen’s anchoring knock and Pollard’s typical power-hitting set up a thrilling finale.