RCB back on familiar path

Moeen Ali (50, 32b, 1x4, 5x6 & 2/18), along with AB de Villiers (75, 51b, 6x4, 4x6) provided Royal Challengers Bangalore a total to fight for.

The England all-rounder later dismissed Mumbai Indians’ Rohit Sharma and Quinton de Kock in the space of four balls to raise thin hopes of RCB’s escape to their second win after the two openers had raised hell with a relentless attack.

Those hopes, however, gradually evaporated as the hosts, with a judicious mix of caution and aggression, completed a successful chase rather comfortably. Having restricted RCB to 171/7, Mumbai Indians replied with 172/5 in 19 overs for their fifth win in eight matches here at the Wankhede Stadium on Monday.

RCB, meanwhile, slipped to their seventh loss that all but ended their hopes of a play-offs berth. There have been instances of teams progressing beyond the league stage with 14 (Deccan Chargers in 2009 and Mumbai Indians in 2014) and 15 points (Mumbai Indians) but given their lack of cohesiveness as a unit, it’s an improbable task for RCB.

Mumbai set the right tone for the chase clobbering 67 runs in the powerplay period, and despite the departure of Rohit (28, 19b, 2x4, 2x6) and de Kock (40, 26b, 5x4, 2x6) in quick succession they didn’t have to take too many risks nor did they have to panic.

With 22 needed off the last two and Hardik Pandya (37 n.o., 16b, 5x4, 2x6) and Kieron Pollard in the middle, it was just a matter of whether the chase would stretch to the final over and it didn’t as Hardik hammered Pawan Negi for 22 runs to send the stadium in raptures.

The game-sense that Virat Kohli has been talking about was again missing from RCB that potentially denied some valuable runs in the final over. De Villiers was sizzling after a slow start and having smashed Lasith Malinga’s first ball for a six, he promised to finish the innings with a flourish. The second ball was driven to long-on and de Villiers wanted two. But a tardy Akshdeep Nath sent him back and Kieron Pollard let rip a direct throw that caught the South African short of the crease. RCB lost two more wickets before the final ball yielded two byes thus forcing them to settle for a lesser total than they would have hoped for.

After the six-over Powerplay (45/1), however, RCB would have gladly taken the total they eventually managed. Jason Behrendorff (49/1), Malinga (4/31) and Jasprit Bumrah (22/0) sent down four tidy overs during which Kohli too was dismissed. Parthiv Patel gave some momentum in the fifth over when he carted Behrendorff for 19 runs, but the left-hander’s dismissal put them on the backfoot again as they limped to 70 in the first 10 overs.

With Mumbai pacers getting healthy bounce and movement off the deck, de Villiers struggled to time the ball while Ali bided his time. Once the two got their eyes in, though, they unleashed mayhem on the unsuspecting Mumbai bowlers, picking boundaries for fun.

Ali, especially, dealt in sixes, dispatching the ball into the stands with customary nonchalance. With de Villiers getting into his zone, runs came in a canter. The duo raised 95 runs in just 61 balls before Ali holed Malinga in the deep. Barring Bumrah, no bowler was spared as RCB plundered 101 runs in the last 10 overs though they could have easily posted 180 or more had Nath showed some presence of mind.

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RCB back on familiar path

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