Virat Kohli was the lone ranger as his second successive century powered Royal Challengers Bangalore to a challenging 197 for five in their must-win final IPL league game against Gujarat Titans here on Sunday. With the rain gods threatening to spoil RCB’s play-off plans during the day, the match that started half an hour late saw Kohli (101 not out off 61 balls) bring back his 2016 avatar. He held all the aces during his knock that had 13 fours and a six. His innings was priceless in the context that none of the other RCB batters could even reach 30 and just like the good old days, ‘King Kohli’ set the narrative by playing with line, length and minds of the bowlers.
This is his seventh IPL hundred and he has now surpassed Chris Gayle as the batter with highest number of tournament tons.
Considering that the Chinnaswamy Stadium is known for batting belters, the final total, though competitive enough, could still be about 10 runs below par.
Kohli and skipper Faf Du Plessis (28) got off to a rollicking start, with a flurry of boundaries against Mohammed Shami (1/39 in 4 overs) and the already distraught Yash Dayal in the powerplay.
They were dispatched for as many as nine boundaries which prompted Hardik Pandya to quickly press his main weapon, Rashid Khan (1/24 in 4 overs), into action to stem the flow of runs.
After conceding 62 runs in six powerplay overs, Rashid and his ‘left-arm mirror image’ Noor Ahmed (2/39 in 4 overs) put the brakes on the scoring.
Noor dismissed du Plessis while he tried to hit him inside in a freakish manner. The edge hit Wriddhiman Saha’s pads and lobbed up for Rahul Tewatia to complete an easy catch.
Glenn Maxwell started off well but Rashid bowled one that was fast and full and just broke back enough to breach the defence of the batter as RCB suddenly found themselves in a rut.
It became worse when Noor dragged Mahipal Lomror with one that turned the other way and Saha completed a leg-side stumping with the finesse that is associated with him for years now.
Michael Bracewell (26), however, took some pressure off Kohli at the other end with Mohit Sharma’s slower balls not working well on this occasion.
In his first three overs, he was hit for seven fours and it was Shami who got Bracewell before he could inflict more damage and Dayal had something finally going for him when Dinesh Karthik’s woeful season got worse.
But Kohli continued to fight.
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