The season has been anything but easy for former Royal Challengers Bangalore skipper Virat Kohli. In 13 matches, the 33-year-old had 236 runs to his credit. He looked out of touch and seemed like finding different ways to get dismissed each time.
AS IT HAPPENED | SCORECARD | POINTS TABLE
The opener found the best match to strike form as he guided his team to an eight-wicket victory over table-toppers Gujarat Titans which kept Faf du Plessis and his men alive in the competition.
RCB came into the contest with the sole aim of a win while Kohli walked in to bat to exorcise the demons of a lean patch. He did it in style with a fine 54-ball 73 (8×4; 2×6), his highest score of the season. Chasing 169 for victory, RCB overhauled the target with eight balls to spare with Glenn Maxwell finishing the job with an unbeaten 40 (18b, 5×4, 2×6).
RCB’s fortunes in the competition will be decided by the result of the final league fixture between Delhi Capitals and Mumbai Indians on Saturday. If Delhi win, then both the teams will be tied at 16 points, with the team with the better net run rate going through. Kohli rode on luck, courage and conviction in equal measure. Dropped by Rashid Khan – off Hardik Pandya-in the fourth over, he survived some closed inside edges as well and made the most of the lifelines.
After a slow start, Kohli found the boundary in the third over when he lofted a fuller delivery from Mohammed Shami. Two balls later, a well-timed front-foot drive went through the covers. Kohli’s raw emotions were on display. Most boundaries were celebrated like milestones and the relief when he reached the half-century mark (33 balls) with a maximum off Rashid Khan was palpable.
Rashid ended Kohli’s innings with a googly which the batsman stepped out to dispatch for a big hit but missed and Matthew Wade made no mistake with the stumping.
Skipper Du Plessis (44) too played his role with their opening stand yielding 115 runs.
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Earlier invited to bowl, the RCB bowlers stuck to a plan for the better part of the Titans’ innings, but subsequently let the opposition off the hook. A bowler short after Harshal Patel hurt his right-hand webbing in the 13th over, birthday boy Siddharth Kaul, who replaced Mohammed Siraj in the line-up, and pace ace Josh Hazlewood leaked 34 runs in the final two overs as skipper Pandya (62 n. o, 47b, 4×4, 3×6) and a fearless Rashid Khan (19) steered the Titans.
Before the Pandya-Rashid show, Hazlewood delivered the first breakthrough in the third over when Shubman Gill poked to the slips and Maxwell pulled off a brilliant one-handed flying catch. The in-form Wriddhiman Saha (31) and Mathew Wade (16) upped the tempo but the latter failed to convert the start. With Pandya still settling in, it was crucial for Saha to bat deep but the opener was run out in the ninth over.
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In the 14th over, Maxwell drifted a little and was punished by David Miller (34) with two consecutive maximums. The over yielded 18 runs. Pandya, who had managed just 56 in his previous six innings, held together one end. He made optimum use of the lifeline offered to him after he was dropped by Suyash Prabhudessai, off Maxwell in the 10th over.