A stoked Virat Kohli roared back into form with a fine half-century as Royal Challengers Bangalore stayed alive in the IPL play-off race with a thumping eight-wicket victory over table-toppers Gujarat Titans on Thursday. This was after skipper Hardik Pandya scored a rough 47-ball 62 to lift GT to a competitive 168 for five after opting to bat. Kohli (73 out of 54) and captain Fa du Plessis (44 out of 38) shared a match-winning opening score of 115 runs before Glenn Maxwell (40 out of 18) went ballistic to ensure the team came home in 18.4 overs.
With this win, RCB has moved up to fourth in the standings by 16 points, but will have to wait for the Delhi Capitals-Mumbai Indians match on Saturday to know their fate. A loss to Delhi would secure RCB a play-off spot.
As the ‘Kohli Kohli’ chants suggested, the whole of Wankhede and probably the country wanted to see the former India captain again between runs and with a bit of luck got his way back to playing the shots he is known for.
When Kohi Mohammed chose Shami for two lofty boundaries over the bowler’s head and cover in the third over, it looked like it was going to be his night. His next four were a streaky bacon from Hardik who threw the new ball.
The next ball was Kohli at his best as he hit Hardik to the square leg, with Rashid Khan missing a hard chance in the deep end.
A sign of his growing confidence was a straight ride from the sky at Rashid. Kohli was quick on his feet, against both Rashid and the pacers. The Indian superstar brought out his second fifty of the season by hitting a full ball from Rashid over a deep midwicket.
With Kohli on number, Du Plessis played his part perfectly and the strike continued to spin next to an odd line.
After the captain’s resignation, Maxwell joined Kohli and went ballistic from ball one. The Australian’s cameo included a reverse scoop of Hardik going all out. After collecting his second six from Rashid, Kohli tried one too many and rolled over in the 17th, but the job was then well done.
Previously, Hardik brought GT to a competitive total. He came into the game with a run of low scores and warmed up nicely for the play-offs with a well-made fifty, although he wasn’t at his best.
RCB limited GT to 72 for three in 10 overs, largely due to their on-field brilliance, despite Wriddhiman Saha (31 out of 22) looming in the middle.
Saha again got off to a solid start with a few clean strokes, but opening partner Shubman Gill died cheaply. The right handed jabbed at a good length ball and Maxwell, standing at a wide first slip, picked a stunning one handed catch that dives to the right.
Matthew Wade, who hasn’t been on his blast in the IPL, fell on a controversial phone call that also sparked empathy from Kohli. Wade was sure that he underscored Maxwell’s sweep and took no time to reconsider the decision on the field, which was out.
However, despite an obvious deviation in the trajectory of the ball before it hit the pads, the UltraEdge failed to detect the ball and the TV referee stayed on the field at the referee’s call. Wade had no choice but to reluctantly walk back into the dugout. Saha, who hit four boundaries and a six, had Hardik for company in the middle, but after a confusion with his captain, the wicket-keeper fell way below his fold when Du Plessis made a stunning direct hit from the middle.
Hardik, who was dropped at 14, caught the eye alongside David Miller (34 out of 25), who continued his impressive run in the tournament.
Miller crushed three sixes before Wanindu Hasaranga got rid of him with a sharp return.
Rashid (19 out of six) joined Hardik in the death overs and did what he’s done over the course of the season. The leg spinner hit a couple of sixes towards the end to push the total over 160.