Virat Kohli was anything but ‘out of form’ heading into Thursday’s clash against Sunrisers Hyderabad, but despite amassing three fifties in seven innings, his strike rate came under the scanner. 118.5 was what Kohli’s SR read in the preceding seven matches and there were plenty of questions surrounding his approach, and subsequently his ability to bat at an acceptable pace, post his 46-ball 55 against Delhi Capitals that came in a losing cause.
On Thursday in Hyderabad, however, Kohli quashed all doubts in emphatic fashion as he smashed his first IPL ton in four years to put RCB in pole position to make it to the playoffs. On the night, Kohli started off with intent like he usually does, but, unlike the previous games, the RCB talisman kept his foot on the accelerator. He eventually finished with 100 off 63 balls as the Reds chased down 187 with four balls to spare.
Named Player of the Match for his efforts, Kohli did not hold back at the presentation.
“I put myself under so much stress already. I don't care what anyone says on the outside,” Kohli said at the post-match presentation.
“I sometimes don't give myself enough credit sometimes for playing impact knocks. I take pride to play the situation. I don't play fancy shots. We have to play 12 months of the year, so you can't play fancy shots and throw your wicket away. I try to stay true to my technique and take pride which helps my team.”
RCB needed to win on Thursday to keep their playoff hopes fully alive — to have their fate in their own hands — thus Kohli claimed that his knock was ‘special’ considering the magnitude of the situation.
He started the knock off with two boundaries and the 34-year-old revealed that it was a conscious plan of his to go hard from the get go.
“Quite special considering the magnitude of the game. We saw the ball was gripping in the middle. We wanted a solid start but did not expect to be 172 for no loss. That's how well Faf and I have played, he's been on a different level.
“I had a quiet couple of games and wasn't hitting as well in the game as I was in the nets. My intent from ball 1 was to go after the bowlers. There was a dip but I wanted to take it up in the right time. Happy that it all came together nicely.”
It is rare for a chasing side’s opening pair to knock off 92% of the target all by themselves, but that’s precisely what happened on the night as Kohli and Faf put together a 172-run stand. The stand was the pair’s third century-partnership of IPL 2023, and on Thursday they created history by becoming the most prolific opening pair in a single IPL season (going past Warner and Bairstow in 2019).
Kohli asserted that, just like he once had with AB, he has an inherent batting connect with Faf that cannot be explained.
“We almost have 900 runs together this season. Very similar how I used to feel with AB and me batting together,” Kohli said.
“Just an understanding of where the game is going and what needs to be done. Having an experienced guy who's captained at the international level - it's been a beautiful transition for us coming together for RCB at the top and making an impact.”
Du Plessis reiterated the same.
"Kohli and I complement each other well, hit different areas and are good mates on and off well which works for us."
With the victory on Thursday, RCB have moved to fourth spot, and are in pole position to make it to the playoffs. They will, in all likelihood, finish in the Top 4 with a victory over Gujarat Titans at the Chinnaswamy on Sunday, May 21.