Royal Challengers Bangalore kept their playoff hopes alive with a classy all-round display against a game Delhi Daredevils outfit.
Fresh from his recording-breaking 128 for the Delhi Daredevils against Sunrisers Hyderabad, Rishabh Pant raced to a blistering 61 off 34 balls (S/R 179.41), with five fours and four sixes. Pant’s luck ran out as AB de Villiers held on to a sensational sliding catch on the boundary to end a 93-run partnership between Pant and captain Shreyas Iyer, who scored 32. Enter Abhishek Sharma, the 17-year-old from Punjab, making his T20 debut with less than five overs to spare.
Sharma played the innings of a lifetime, slamming three fours and four sixes to finish 46 not out off just 19 balls t0 lift his side to a competitive 181-4 – and marking the start of a highly promising career. Sharma’s innings came at a blistering strike rate of 242.10 to give his side a fighting chance against the batting-heavy Royal Challengers.
It was another T20 debutant for the Delhi Daredevils, Sandeep Lamichhane from Nepal (with just 21 List A limited-overs matches under his belt, and no first-class experience) who led the attack with his leg break googlies. Lamichhane bowled incredibly well against the seasoned RCB batting lineup, including 10 dot balls as well as picking up the wicket of the experienced Parthiv Patel. Lamichhane completed his four overs with figures of 1-25 at an economy rate of just 6.25.
For all the heroics of DD’s debutants, it fell to the old hands Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers to drive RCB to an emphatic victory, teaming up at 18-2 and taking the DD bowling to task until Kohli fell to a great leg break delivery from Amit Mishra, which Pant held well behind the stumps with the score on 136. Kohli’s 70 came off 40 balls with seven fours and three sixes (S/R 175.00), but South Africa’s darling, De Villiers, took things to another level by slashing an undefeated 72 off 37 balls (S/R 194.59), with a dazzling display of six-hitting which saw six shots clearing the boundary rope, including the winning hit off Trent Boult which flew high over long off with six balls to spare.
‘It’s lovely batting with AB,’ Kohli said after the match. ‘We’ve done this many times in the past. It was a stiff chase, but in the mid-innings break AB told me “don’t worry, we’ll get this”, and that helped me get in the zone.’
It’s a zone RCB will hope to stay in as they look to claw their way into the playoffs. They have it all to do but, on this display, you certainly wouldn’t want to bet against them.
Photos: Rahul Gulati /SPORTZPICS for BCCI