VoV Web Desk

Height and stature to the fore in atypical home win for RCB

Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

Royal Challengers Bengaluru won the toss and fielded, Virat Kohli scored a half-century in the chase and Bengalureans welcomed the arrival of the first points of IPL 2024 with usual pomp and fanfare. These were the more predictable parts of the evening. Monday’s clash against Punjab Kings was, in many ways, atypical of how T20 games usually pan out at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, where two sets of batters vie to out-hit one another and leave bowlers contemplating their vocation.

Height Matters

This unusual contest had a lot to do with the pitch, a fresh one for the start of the season with a patchy grass covering. Mahipal Lomror expected it to get better and revert to type over the course of the season but on the day it played tacky. Shikhar Dhawan, the visiting skipper and the second-highest run-getter on the night, accorded it a ratio: 70-30 viz. 70% of the times it played true but the other deliveries stopped on the wicket, bounced as tennis balls do, arrived much later than a batter anticipated and yanked him out of shape. Sometimes, all of this happened at once.

RCB were better equipped to play those odds. They opened the bowling with Mohammed Siraj [2 for 26] and Yash Dayal [1 for 23], two bowlers that use the swing currency in T20 powerplays. Siraj was driven for four off the first ball of the game for four and instantly pulled his length back. Dayal was even quicker on the uptake, hitting the eight-metre mark and generally being a menace with his left-arm angle. Between them, the pressure they created resulted in a breakthrough. Siraj dismissed Jonny Bairstow, a batter he’d never dismissed in T20s previously and who had scored against him at strike-rate of 230, with a short ball that resulted in a miscued pull.

It was an impressive opening display from both the seamers because bowlers groove their lengths and their modes of attack for certain grounds, and it’s not straightforward to shift to an entirely different mode of operation. Siraj did that last year and Dayal adjusted equally brilliantly in his first game for the club at this ground.

In this recent interview, Mike Hesson spelled out why it was imperative to have a ‘bounce bowler’ for the Chinnaswamy and RCB had just the profile in their attack to exploit such inconsistency in bounce and carry that was a feature of this exchange. Cameron Green and Alzarri Joseph stand at 1.98 metres [6’5″] and 1.96 metres [6’4″] respectively [RCB also have the 2.01 metre tall Reece Topley in the squad] and their high release points made them a unique proposition to counter on this surface through the middle overs.

And this was reflected in the strategies employed as the quicks looked to hit the pitch hard and find disconcerting bounce from just short of a length. Only when they attempted the double-bluff of a full ball, hoping to trap a batter playing back to a full ball, did they leak easy boundaries. They were, of course, also aided by the new ‘two bouncer rule’ as well as the general hitting tendencies of power players in T20.

More and more batters stay legside of the ball and then try to muscle deliveries across the line. Liam Livingstone missed and miscued with two similar attempts against Joseph’s pacy hard length deliveries before an attempted slash ended his stay. That last ball of the 12th over was a pivotal moment for the Kings, who had just found a nice tempo to their innings. The dismissal also brought two left-handers to the crease and allowed RCB to bowl another over of the offie Glenn Maxwell, who used his match-up advantage to prize out Dhawan and send Kings into a rebuild, potentially costing the team the 10-15 runs that Dhawan opined they’d left out in the middle.

Kohli transcends the conditions

By contrast, Punjab Kings had a very different profile of bowlers with the likes of Sam Curran, Arshdeep Singh and even Harshal Patel usually known for bowling variations rather than for pounding the pitch in search of variance. Kagiso Rabada fitted the requirement and was the best visiting seamer [2 for 23]. But with PBKS constantly turning to him for breakthrough, he was bowled out by the 14th over.

Curran, though, should have dismissed Kohli with his second ball if compatriot Jonny Bairstow had held on to a sharp catch at slip. And Kohli was in no mood to waste the reprieve or the powerplay when scoring was relatively easier. Mindful of the two-paced nature of the pitch and the shorter-than-usual lengths that he was going to be fed, Kohli repeatedly kept charging down the pitch and hit the seamers through the line, aerially if necessary, and past the ring of fielders on the off-side . This way Kohli met the ball on the bounce and could create momentum through his extraordinary hand speed.

In the first four overs, he hit eight boundaries and even after facing a tight sixth over from Curran, had raced on to 35 off 21 in a powerplay score of 50. Again, this was exactly 10 runs more than what PBKS had achieved with the bat in the first six overs.

Kohli was brisk all through last year with an overall powerplay strike-rate of 136. Today he went 30 points higher and rightly so. The excellent Harpreet Brar, delivering the second-most economical spell by a spinner at the venue [2 for 13], engineered a slowdown through the middle-overs, but Kohli kept finding the release boundaries to keep RCB abreast with the scoring rate.

The return of ‘finisher DK’

Even an excellent 49-ball 77 from Kohli did not assure victory for RCB. He was dismissed with 47 still needed off 24. At this stage, RCB were rewarded for their brave decision at the toss of fielding only four pure bowlers, two all-rounders [Green and Maxwell] and both of Anuj Rawat and Dinesh Karthik in the first XI. That allowed them to deepen their batting with Mahipal Lomror, the ‘impact substitute’, walking in at No.8. Lomror hit his first ball for four and struck a crucial six when Arshdeep erred with a fuller length ball.

Hand-holding him at the other end was the veteran Karthik, who took down former RCB teammate Harshal Patel for a four and six before walking across the stumps to scoop Arshdeep for six to effectively seal the deal in the final over. Karthik finished with 28* off 10, following on from an equally impressive 38* off 26 from a precarious situation in the opener in Chennai. After managing just 140 runs last year at an average of 11.67, this is a great uptick in form and signals a return to his 2022 version. Consequently, Karthik’s form and this show of batting depth bodes well for unshackling RCB’s power-packed top order.

© Cricbuzz

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *