Super Kings lord over Challengers

Super Kings lord over Challengers

Royal Challengers Bangalore suffered another capitulation at the hands of Chennai Super Kings here on Saturday, the six-wicket loss leaving their IPL play-off qualification hopes hanging by the slimmest of threads.

Coming into this big clash following a morale-boosting win over Mumbai Indians, RCB entertained serious hopes of halting a five-match losing streak against CSK. However, it all evaporated under the scorching afternoon Pune sun after their two premier batsmen — Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers — perished in quick succession without contributing much.

Kohli fell first in the opening ball of the seventh over, trying to run down a faster one from Ravindra Jadeja and totally missed the line, the ball crashing on to his stumps. In the very next over, De Villiers joined the skipper back in the dug-out when he missed the ball while trying to reverse-paddle Harbhajan Singh, only to be stumped excellently by MS Dhoni.

Jadeja and Harbhajan, smelling blood, then applied the squeeze on RCB, who simply struggled to break free from their hold. Both spinners bowled wonderful four-over spells in tandem, Jadeja grabbing 3/18 and Habhajan scalping 2/22 as RCB collapsed like a pack of cards on a pitch that had something for the bowlers, especially for spinners. At one stage they looked like they may fold up for less than 100 runs but a late onslaught from Tim Southee (36 not out) helped them post 127/9.

Royal Challengers refused to give up though and pushed the Super Kings hard, who made a heavy weather of the low total. Cruising by the halfway stage of their chase, they stuttered in the middle phase as Colin de Grandhomme and Murugan Ashwin applied the brakes with a wicket each to reduce them to 80/4. RCB could have caused an upset but they dropped Dwayne Bravo twice and the West Indian made the best use of those gifts before MS Dhoni finished the job as CSK (14 points) took a huge step towards play-off berth.

RCB have only themselves to blame for the defeat in another season that appears headed towards a battle to avoid the wooden spoon. While Kohli and de Villiers can be forgiven for having a rare collective bad day, others, barring Parthiv Patel (53) and Southee, failed to put their hand up yet again.

Only Parthiv, playing his first game of the season, looked comfortable during his stay in the middle, mixing caution with aggression pretty well. He relied on his strengths, flicking and cutting, and when he and Kohli were there together, RCB looked like laying a good foundation before launching themselves.

But that was not to be as old warhorse Harbhajan and Jadeja changed the complexion of the game after the latter’s introduction in the seventh over. Both varied their pace nicely and moment they saw the back of Kohli and de Villiers, their bowling gained extra teeth.

Initially, given the situation, Parthiv and Mandeep were circumspect and when the latter tried to raise the tempo, he perished to Jadeja. At 73/4 and all their best batsmen gone, RCB were staring at a crisis and that became a reality when they slumped to 89/8. Southee helped the total gain a semblance of respectability but CSK ensured RCB retired for the night bruised and battered.