AB de Villiers’ 69 underpinned a Royal Challengers total which withstood a desperate attack from Sunrisers captain Kane Williamson to win by 14 runs.
The result keeps the Challengers’ hopes of a play-off place alive… just. They still need to win their final match and hope that other results go their way.
Williamson put up a magnificent fight hoisting 81 off 42 balls with seven fours and five sixes. And while he had admirable support from Manish Pandey (62), they just did not have the momentum to carry them over the line, chasing 218-6.
Williamson won the toss and sent the Challengers into bat. He must have felt vindicated when Parthiv Patel (one) and Virat Kohli (12) were dismissed before the sixth over.
But AB was in the groove immediately, smacking a four off his first delivery. What followed was yet another masterclass.
The viral infection which kept De Villiers out of two games, and which undoubtedly had an influence on his next two innings (one and five), may well have cost him the orange cap. He had been second behind Rishah Pant before being struck down by what he described as the worst illness he has ever had.
Immediately after those two disappointments, he came back with an unbeaten 90 and a 68. This time, he had to rectify the situation after those two early wickets, and slammed 69 off 39 balls, with 12 fours and a six, as the chant ‘ABD, ABD, ABD’ rang around the ground.
He found a solid partner in Moeen Ali (65 off 34; two fours and six sixes) as they put on 107 off just 51 balls.
It all changed in the 15th over, when Rashid Khan, the 19-year-old Afghan legbreak bowler came back for his fourth over, having bowled a tidy 3-22 and removed Kohli.
Within three balls both De Villiers and Ali were gone.
Colin de Grandhomme and Sarfaz Khan took their cue from those who had gone before; Grandhomme slamming an incredible 40 off 17 balls (one four, four sixe) and Sarfaz 22 off eight (three fours, one six). In the last five overs, 69 runs were added.
De Villiers wasn’t finished: he brought off a magnificent catch to remove Alex Hales, leaping high on the midwicket boundary and adjusting his flight as the ball swirled away.
As Kohli said before the game: ‘We’ve got nothing to lose, a week ago, we weren’t even in consideration for the playoffs. The key is to just keep playing without fear and enjoy each other’s company. It’s been a pleasure playing with this bunch, they bring so much passion as a group.’
Boy, did they enjoy that!