It turned out to be a near carbon copy of their game against the Chennai Super Kings for Bangalore. There were some differences, but only slight. The carnage on Harshal Patel was split between two overs – 18th and the 20th – for an aggregate of 40 runs. The left-handed all-rounder in the Punjab side – Harpreet Brar - had the captain in the middle to shoulder the burden of scoring those runs. But, when it was his turn to bowl, he did more than what Ravindra Jadeja did the other night.
First, Brar castled Virat Kohli, who got fed up with the mounting required rate and threw his wicket away with a nothing shot. Then, he bamboozled Glenn Maxwell on the next ball. It drifted in a fraction and straightened after pitching to miss the bat and took the bails along the way. In the over that turned the game, Brar finished with four dot balls to AB de Villiers. He then delivered the decisive blow on the first ball of his next over. With the asking rate touching 14, de Villiers had no option than to go for it. Falling to left-arm spin yet again, he failed to get enough elevation to clear KL Rahul at extra cover.
While the margin of victory – 34 runs – is still huge for a T20 game, it does not provide a clear picture of how far behind RCB were at any point in time during their chase.
The outing was not all bad for the Bangalore franchise. Their bowlers were able to pull things back considerably after Chris Gayle cut loose early on. Rahul was once again sedate, to begin with, and scored 19 runs in his first 22 balls. Gayle on the other hand was brutal from the word go. Punjab were 29/1 in the first five overs and once again seemed too cautious to compete. That is when Gayle – two balls into his innings - chose to attack Kyle Jamieson. He smashed him for five fours in the over, all in the 'V' in front of the wickets. Neither being full nor bowling back of length worked for Jamieson as everything got the same treatment. The only ball not to go for a four was the fifth, a low full toss.
Gayle then dug into Yuzvendra Chahal and bludgeoned him for two sixes down the ground in the next over. Seeing his partner tee-off, Rahul too got into the act and swept Chahal out of the park towards the short boundary on the leg-side in his next over. Well set now, Rahul hit Daniel Sams over long-off and Jamieson over extra cover to reach his half-century in 35 balls. Meanwhile, Sams bounced Gayle out and RCB were able to strangle Punjab. In five overs from 13th to 17th, Punjab added only 23 runs while losing two more wickets. This came after Nicholas Pooran departed for his fourth duck of the season as he failed to control a back of length delivery from Jamieson in the 12th over.
At 132/5 after 17 overs, Punjab seemed to be heading towards a below-par score. That is when Brar joined Rahul in the middle. Bowling in the 18th over, Harshal Patel made a tactical error by going round the wicket to a left-hander with the short boundary on the leg-side. Brar put him away towards mid-off and midwicket to collect 10 off the first two balls. In the 20th over, Rahul flicked and scooped Patel to take 14 off three balls before Brar ended the innings on a high with a six over deep square leg. Rahul scored 72 runs off his last 32 balls while Brar chipped in with a timely cameo of a 17-ball 25. Rahul has now scored 284 runs in 175 balls against Banglore in the last three innings without being dismissed.
When it was their turn to bat, RCB’s chase never took off. Riley Meredith bowled three fiery overs on the trot. Mohammed Shami matched fire with fire. The duo had Kohli missing the balls and Shami even dealt him a blow to his elbow. Going ultra-aggressive in big chase, Devdutt Padikkal went early again, this time to Meredith who sent his off-stump cartwheeling.
“We will continue to use guys at 3 because we have Maxi and AB to follow. We will continue to use that depth. We'll throw in guys there and ask them to change the game for us”. This is what Kohli said after the loss against Chennai when Washington Sundar became the third man to be tried at three in five games. Tonight, RCB had Rajat Patidar for that role. A man with whom they started the tournament and was the incumbent from the last game against Delhi. However, together with Kohli, Patidar pushed RCB out of the game over by over. When Kohli was dismissed at a 34-ball 35, Patidar was at 15 off 21 balls with the team at 62/1 at the end of 10 overs.
Brar’s spell put an end to any hope that RCB had of a comeback. Later, the leggie, Ravi Bishnoi, too got himself among the wickets, accounting for Shahbaz Ahmed and Daniel Sams. The joint figures for Punjab’s spinners read 5/36 in their eight overs.
Bowling the 20th over, Harshal took seven wickets at an economy of 5.2 in the first four games. Against Chennai and now with Punjab, he has given 59 runs in total in the last over without a wicket. After a rough night with the ball, he used the long handle to hit Punjab’s pacers in a 13-ball 31. But, it was too little too late for Bangalore who now have a few questions to address as they move into their next round of games.