What a game!! It was inconsequential. Both teams had qualified. None of the other six teams were dependent on the outcome of this match. The fact that it was between two of the best teams of the seasons (1 versus 3) was the silver-lining of the contest. It was like a closing ceremony to the league stage. And boy o boy, what a closing ceremony it was.
Royal Challengers Bangalore came back from behind to register their most memorable victory of the season. From 55/3 with Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers back in the hut, Bangalore returned to win by seven wickets. It was done at the back of another one of Glenn Maxwell’s ‘Big Show’ with the bat and a last ball six to seal the deal from KS Bharat, who finished with unbeaten 78 runs off 52 deliveries. Bharat rekindled the memories of Arun Karthik from 2011 when he took Bangalore over the line with a last ball six in a Champions League fixture. Coincidentally, both of them are wicketkeepers.
Delhi Capitals, on the other hand, were not there with their intensity. It was evident in the field when Shreyas Iyer and Ravichandran Ashwin dropped Maxwell, when he was at 6 and 16 respectively. The in-form Australian scored 51 not out off 33 balls.
When Bangalore required 8 off the final two balls, Axar Patel conceded an extra run with a fielding error which reduced the deficit to a six off the final ball. Avesh Khan, having bowled incredibly until then, delivered a wide and a full toss that Bharat carved over long-on for a maximum.
The rollicking start, the slow down and the missed opportunities
Delhi got off to a rollicking start with the bat. For the first time in this UAE leg, Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw reminded everyone of the impact they had created in the first half. Shaw took advantage of Bangalore’s helpless Powerplay bowling fortunes to get going again. Dhawan had already laid the platform by tearing into Maxwell, staining Bangalore’s plan of using the match of an off-spinner against him. The duo put on 55 runs in the Powerplay without being separated.
They extended their stand to 88 in 10 overs when Dhawan perished in a bid to accelerate, becoming Harshal Patel’s 30th victim this season. Prithvi Shaw followed soon and Delhi’s innings went downhill, as it has been the case with most teams against Bangalore post the Powerplay.
None of the following batsmen matched the tempo. Rishabh Pant scored 10 off 8 and Shreyas Iyer contributed a run a ball 18. Shimron Hetmyer did look dangerous but eventually settled for a 22-ball 29.
After 88/0 in the first half, they managed only 76/4 in the second. The last five overs brought only 31 runs. The last two balls - no runs. Both were missed opportunities given Hetmyer’s form. He missed a pull on the penultimate delivery and then a rank full toss which was hit straight to the deep mid-wicket fielder. In a match which went to the last ball, the left-hander and Delhi would certainly review these fine margins.
A similar tale with the ball
It was not just the bat but Delhi had a terrific start with the ball as well. In fact, much like their batting, they were tight for the first half of their bowling effort. Anrich Nortje, taking the new ball, had Bangalore 6/2 in his first two overs. Devdutt Padikkal extended his batting humdrums by a poorly executed upper cut straight down the throat of the third man. Kohli sliced a full delivery to mid-on.
As expected, Bangalore sent AB de Villiers at number four to allow him more time in the middle. He looked good in patches before falling to Axar in the 10th over. At his departure, Delhi was well on top. However, there was a conspicuous drop in intensity and Bharat and Maxwell feasted on it.
Delhi were also handicapped by the ineffectiveness of Ashwin on this track. On a better pitch for batting and with dew in effect, Ashwin bowled only one over. Ripal Patel did his job filling in for him but Delhi conceded 33 runs without a wicket in the fifth bowler’s quota. Rabada and Axar went for 37 and 39 runs in their four overs each as the bowling unit was not at its best.
Maxwell's counter-attack and Bharat's steady brilliance
Maxwell neutralized Axar’s stifling angles with his ramp shots. With Maxwell accelerating, Bharat focused on ticking over the scoreboard and was efficient in punishing the loose balls. Delhi had two chances to send Maxwell back and instill panic in Bangalore’s camp by going deep into their batting line-up but did not hold on to their chances.
Scoring at least one boundary every over 12th over onwards, the two brought the equation down to 46 off 24 balls. Rabada leaked 15 in his last over easing Bangalore’s nerve in the crucial fire-with-fire contest. Avesh and Nortje stretched Bangalore’s task to 8 off two balls. It was a phase when Maxwell was running out of the gas.
However, for the first time, Avesh came second at a crunch moment. When Bharat missed the third last ball which was delivered in the slot, Avesh had a sheepish smile on his face. It was a sign of things not under his control. Maxwell allowed Bharat to take strike on the last ball running back for the second on Axar’s misfield on the penultimate ball. Avesh, erred in his line and length on consecutive deliveries, bowling a wide and a full toss. Bharat pounded on the opportunity to culminate a special win. His batting expertise is renowned to be suited to red-ball cricket but in Dubai, he showed what he can achieve in white-ball cricket with arguably his best knock, till date. For Delhi, it was a tale of missed chances that they would not want to replicate.