RCB stay in the hunt for the IPL 2016 playoffs, Kings XI Punjab don't. In a must-win match for both teams, the Royal Challengers Bangalore batsmen stepped up to the plate, before their bowlers did enough, just, to pull off a remarkable one-run victory in Mohali on Monday.
Asked to bat first, RCB had a wonderful half-century from AB De Villiers (64, 35b, 5x4, 2x6) to thank for getting to 175/6. Murali Vijay led from the front in the chase, scoring an outstanding 89 (57b, 12x4, 1x6), before Marcus Stoinis scored a brilliant 34 n.o. (22b, 3x4, 1x6) to take the match right to the end. However, needing four runs off the final ball for a win, Kings XI fell marginally short to hand RCB the closest of wins.
Despite success in the last game, Stoinis was kept back by KXIP, with Murali Vijay taking a new partner in Hashim Amla. The two batsmen, who excel in Test match cricket, played some fine shots to run down 43 in the first five overs, before Amla fell to Shane Watson, whose short ball was pulled by the right-hander to Stuart Binny at midwicket.
However, at 50/1 in 6 overs, KXIP were still in a good position in the chase, with Vijay, in particular, looking determined to see his team home. Vijay and Wriddhiman Saha put in a nice 43-run partnership for the second wicket, but just when it looked like the cruise button was about to be pressed, RCB fought back, with Yuzvendra Chahal picking up two wickets in two balls. Saha and David Miller were both stumped by Rahul, leaving KXIP on 88/3 in 11 overs, needing a further 88 from nine overs.
Vijay, though, was in complete control, chugging along nicely like a regular passenger train, before pressing the foot on the accelerator to turn into an express, when required. Stoinis gave his captain good company at the other end, as the two right-handers took the equation all the way down to a makeable 40 from 24 balls.
Step up Shane Watson, the only RCB bowler who has looked like a bowler all season. A brilliant five balls from the Australian, which went for just three runs, was followed by a short ball, which Vijay, knowing the need for a boundary, pulled straight to Chahal at deep square-leg to end a brilliant innings.
A 13-run over from the struggling Chris Jordan, though, brought it right back for Kings XI, who now needed 24 runs from 12 balls, with Stoinis and debutant Farhaan Behardien looking good. Another brilliant over from Watson (4-0-22-2), though, meant Jordan had 16 runs to protect in the final over, with KXIP needing 17 for a win.
Stoinis struck a four and a six, both to the offside, off the second and third balls of the final over to bring it down to 6 from three balls, before a dot ball made it 6 from 2. A couple followed, which meant Kings XI needed four from the final ball for a win. Stoinis could only get two off Jordan (4-0-52-0), as KXIP fell heartbreakingly short by on run.
RCB got off to a sparkling start in the first innings, with KL Rahul taking it to the KXIP bowlers in some style. While Kohli was calm at one end, Rahul went boundary-crazy at the other, particularly taking a liking to the man of the match from the last game – Marcus Stoinis. The Australian was taken for 20 runs in the fourth over, with Rahul going four, four, six and four off consecutive deliveries.
That onslaught was always going to end, with the question being who the bowler would be to step up. That man proved to be KC Cariappa (3-0-16-2), with the spinner picking up two wickets in three balls, one of them Rahul and the other the prized one of Kohli. Rahul (42, 25b, 6x4, 1x6) was the first to go, getting bowled after missing a sweep shot, with Kohli (20, 21b, 2x4) then chipping one straight to Vijay at short cover. It got worse for RCB as Shane Watson fell in the next over, castled by Axar Patel (4-0-27-1), with the score going from 63/0 to 67/3.
However, with AB De Villiers at the crease and Sachin Baby (33, 29b, 1x4) playing smart cricket, RCB fought back, and once the South African found his mojo, that fight turned into De Villiers-inspired carnage. There were plenty of those patented sweep shots off the fast bowlers, plenty of slaps over cover and many more as De Villiers struck a brilliant half-century to set the innings up for a big score.
While the great man fell in the 18th over, after an 88-run partnership with Sachin Baby, who scored just 27 of those, RCB had enough in them to take the final total to 175, which proved to be enough by one run.