Another Virat Kohli masterclass in a chase gave RCB a much-needed win in IPL 2016, with that victory as good as knocking RPS out of contention for a playoff place. Knowing only a win would do for either team, Kohli led from the front again, playing a delightful, perfectly timed, unbeaten 108 (58b, 8x4, 7x6) to guide RCB to a seven-wicket victory with three balls to spare.
Put in to bat, RPS posted 191/6 in their 20 overs, with Ajinkya Rahane scoring a splendid 74 (48b, 8x4, 2x6). In reply, Kohli anchored the chase to perfection, with Shane Watson (36, 13b, 5x4, 2x6) playing a little gem of an innings to help RCB get home in style. After scoring his first hundred earlier in the tournament, Kohli was left a disappointed man as his team went down, but this time, in a chase, with everything under his control, India's brightest batting talent ensured there would be no heartache as he played an innings of class, and then some.
The start was quite good from Kohli and KL Rahul, with the two right-handers making sure Chris Gayle would not be missed, by putting on 94 runs for the opening wicket. The run rate in that partnership was not too shabby either, at 8.41, and with the likes of AB De Villiers, Shane Watson and Travis Head to come, it looked like RCB would cruise the chase.
However, the pressure of the chase got to Rahul (38, 3b, 1x4, 2x6), who holed out in the deep off Adam Zampa, before the Australian legspinner picked up the prized wicket of De Villiers, in the same over, and a ball after the South African survived a close lbw appeal.
At 97/2 in 12 overs, RCB suddenly found themselves in a bit of a bother, needing 95 from the last eight overs.
Step up Watson, who, after finishing with bowling figures of 4-0-24-3, went on an assault of epic proportions to bring RCB right back into the game. The punishment started in the 14th over, as Thisara Perera was smashed for five fours by the Australian. MS Dhoni, deciding against giving the ball to R Ashwin, brought on Rajat Bhatia to complete his quota of four overs, and having started with figures of 3-0-26-0, Bhatia ended on 4-0-45-0, as Watson pummelled a couple of massive sixes, with Kohli chipping in with a four as well.
Needing a good over from somewhere, Dhoni turned to the experience of RP Singh, and the left-arm seamer delivered, picking up Watson lbw, while giving away just three runs. Now, Ashwin finally came on, and the offspinner did not let his captain down, conceding just seven runs, to leave RCB needing 40 from 18.
Zampa was brought back for his final over and Kohli started it off with a slog sweep over midwicket for a six, before a gorgeous straight hit fetched him another six. An 18-run over brought the equation down to 22 from 12, and with Kohli showing his mastery again, courtesy a couple more sixes -- one of them a contender for the six of the tournament -- it was easy as pie from there.
Earlier, the Rising Pune Supergiants batsmen posted what was expected of them really, a score nearing 200. But that total was largely thanks to the largesse from the RCB fielders, who dropped catch after catch after catch, while missing stumpings as well.
Having dismissed Usman Khawaja (16, 6b, 2x4, 1x6) after an early onslaught, RCB had the opportunity to put the pressure on RPS, but, instead, they released it through some woeful fielding.
Saurabh Tiwary was the lucky customer on three occasions, with Stuart Binny and Sachin Baby dropping two absolute sitters in the sixth over, when the RPS batsman was on 19. The first was a simple catch to Binny at cover, but the ball jumped out, before, off the very next ball, with Varun Aaron looking on in disbelief, Sachin Baby grassed an equally simple one at point.
Ajinkya Rahane would then be dropped in the first ball of the seventh over – Aaron the unlucky bowler again – as Watson pulled out at the last minute, thinking the bowler himself was there to take the catch off a leading edge.
There would be one more off the next over, with Rahul, who is clearly not a wicketkeeper, missing a simple stumping to dismiss Tiwary, with Yuzvendra Chahal the man left steaming.
Those misses allowed Rahane and Tiwary to 106 runs together in just a shade under 12 overs, setting the ideal platform for the rest to come in and go into tonk-town. However, once Tiwary fell in the 15th over, the momentum quelled a little, as wickets kept falling.
But a fair few runs kept coming as well, and even if those wickets meant RPS were never going to cross the 200-run mark, a 16-run final over, off Chris Jordan, the debutant, meant the away side at least went past 190.