Memo (if such a thing still exists) to South Africa – please play AB De Villiers in the top three, please. ABD -- as the chants rang out time and again -- showed his ridiculous T20 range, batting at No.3 for the Royal Challengers Bangalore to guide his team to a massive victory over the Sunrisers Hyderabad in IPL 2016.
The Chinnaswamy Stadium was the RCB's platform to showcase their skills with the bat again as De Villiers (82, 42b, 7x4, 6x6), Virat Kohli (75, 51b, 7x4, 3x6) and Sarfaraz Khan (35 n.o., 10b, 5x4, 2x6) all made merry under the lights in Bengaluru to lead the home team to 227/4 in their 20 overs.
A decent, but noisy, crowd – far from a full house – came out wanting a Chris Gayle special, but after the left-hander fell in the second over, it was all about De Villiers and Kohli. The two right-handers, a cricket connoisseur's and any cricket fan's dream, put on 157 delightful, dreamy runs together in under 15 overs to send RCB on their way to a huge total.
When even one of the RCB trio gets it right, it is a treat to watch, but when two of them find form, there really is nothing like it in IPL or franchise cricket. De Villiers is everybody's favourite cricketer, and the South African, so ridiculously underused by his own country, showed why with his typically-outrageous cricketing shots.
The Kohli and De Villiers partnership had it all – cuts, pulls, drives and those wonderful straight hits. And when they got going, there really was very little the Sunrisers Hyderabad could do, particularly at a ground where the ball flies.
Once Kohli, De Villiers and Shane Watson, after hitting three straight sixes, got out, it looked like SRH might keep RCB down to a chaseable score, but Sarfaraz Khan had other plans, not belting the ball, but scooping it to great effect. Everything SRH threw at Sarfaraz, he had an answer to, with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, in particular, getting a particular pasting, as the right-hander scooped the India bowler for 28 runs in the penultimate over of the innings.
Only Mustafizur Rahman impressed with the ball, going for just 26 runs in his four overs, while picking up a couple of wickets – of De Villiers and Shane Watson – but with the others going for plenty and Nehra suffering an injury in his third over, there was little he alone could do.
The reply from the Sunrisers Hyderabad saw only one man really try and make a fist of the chase, with David Warner tonking plenty of sixes and fours, with little to no support from the other end. Shikhar Dhawan, as seems to be the norm now, disappointed, while the likes of Moises Henriques, Naman Ojha and Deepak Hooda bowed to the pressure of the chase.
Ashish Reddy (32, 18b, 2x4, 3x6) and Karn Sharma (26, 17b, 3x4, 1x6) played cameos once the match was as good as done, but Warner's brilliant 58 from 25 balls (4x4, 5x6) proved to be in vain as SRH fell well short, finishing on 182/6 to hand RCB a 45-run victory.