In a tournament dotted liberally with exceptional batting displays, AB de Villiers produced the innings of IPL V to date, a wonderful amalgam of fierce ball-striking and inimitable innovation.
South Africa’s one-day captain extended his run of brilliant form with the second-fastest fifty of this year’s competition, muscling Royal Challengers Bangalore to a third consecutive victory.
Significantly, not only did this win, against Rajasthan Royals at the Sawai Man Singh stadium, come without a meaningful contribution from the talismanic Chris Gayle, it was also the Royals’ first defeat of the season in four home matches at their acknowledged fortress, where they have won 15 of 21 matches in IPL history. Victory looked no more than a remote possibility for the first 10 overs as the Challengers limped to 62 for two, their plans thrown into disarray when Gayle started to throw up with the umpires having already made their way to the middle.
The out-of-form Virat Kohli threw his bat around for a while, but Tillakaratne Dilshan struggled for touch, and Mayank Agarwal and Gayle himself – batting at four – scratched around as the Royals looked on course to justify Rahul Dravid’s decision to bat second.
Enter de Villiers, with the board reading 67 for three after 11.4 overs. For the next three-quarters of an hour, he unleashed such carnage that the Royals scurried for cover. Pace and spin alike were treated with a disdain all too rare even in this form of the game, the boundaries too short to keep him in check.
With de Villiers up and running, the balance of power inexorably shifted the Challengers’ way and Dilshan too made his presence felt. Shrugging off an indifferent start, he came into his own as the last five overs yielded a whopping 82. The unbeaten fourth-wicket stand yielded 122 from just 50 deliveries.
All of a sudden, with the Challengers having posted 189 for three, Dravid’s move to chase didn’t seem all that smart. He did bat beautifully on his way to a first 50 of the season, but it was a lone hand as Ajinkya Rahane, Owais Shah and Brad Hodge found the going tough.
KP Appanna, the left-arm spinner, bowled quite superbly on a drying track that assisted the slower bowlers – between them, he and Daniel Vettori conceded just 39 in eight overs, with the less experienced man taking four for 19 – to all but stymie the chase in the early stages. The Challengers’ second straight win on the road came by the impressive margin of 46 runs.