Kolkata Knight Riders may have missed a trick by not playing Kuldeep Yadav on a slow Sharjah wicket but skipper Dinesh Karthik said AB de Villiers made the game beyond their reach with an incredible display of power-hitting. The South African veteran changed gears in the last five overs, smashing six sixes and five fours in an unbeaten 73 off 33 balls to set up an 82-run win for Royal Challengers Bangalore.
"AB de Villiers showed why he is a very good player. Time and time again to come out there and score 80 runs of the (last) five overs is not an easy one, but I think he made it look much easier than what it was," Karthik said at the post-match media conference on Monday.
"If they had scored 60 runs, and you know the 20 runs could have been made a bit different between 175 and 195. Always chasing 195, on a slightly slower wicket may not be that easy."
It seemed de Villiers was batting on a different surface as the other batsmen struggled. "Sometimes he's a really hard batsman to bowl to, because of the way he moves around the crease. But today, he stood still and made sure that he cleared his left leg and got a lot of balls outside the ground. It wasn't that easy to bowl to him but overall I think, kudos to him for the way he batted," said Karthik.
In absence of Sunil Narine, who was left out of the team after being reported of suspect action, KKR spinner Varun Chakravarthy was the most economical of the lot, conceding 25 runs from his four overs. But the mystery spinner lacked support at the other end as KKR went in for an pace heavy attack, sidelining their ace Indian spinner Kuldeep Yadav for four matches on the trot.
Asked whether Chakravarthy lacked support, the KKR skipper said: "I think at various points of time we had opportunities to create a little bit of inroads but they got away with a few shots... The good thing was we bowled in good areas but they played some great shots towards the end."
"It was a little bit slow as Virat (Kohli) mentioned at the toss. The wicket got a little slower, so I think it was an ideal bat-first kind of a wicket."
In reply, KKR's top-order was routed by the RCB spinners -- Washington Sundar (2/12) and Yuzvendra Chahal (1/12) -- before Chris Morris' splendid 2/17 restricted them to a paltry 112/9. For KKR, opener Shubman Gill top-scored with 34 off 25 balls, but his new partner Tom Banton faltered and was bowled for eight off 12 balls on his IPL debut.
But Karthik defended his decision to open with Banton in place of an in-form Rahul Tripathi who had impressed with an 81 against CSK in Abu Dhabi. "Once you play Tom Banton I think you've got to make sure that he opens because that's where he is best at... "He's somebody who has opened in international cricket and done well. So that was the reason why we stuck with him as an opener.
"We know that Rahul Tripathi is somebody who's versatile and can adapt to any situation that he's being sent to," Karthik said.