Dinesh Karthik and Shahbaz Ahmed worked together to bring Royal Challengers Bangalore back to life for a difficult win. The Challengers were stuck in 87 for 5 in a chase of 170, but the pair pulled through to beat Rajasthan Royals at the Wankhede Stadium on Tuesday.
The Royals, with the help of their new recruits, were set to successfully defend a modest total. The new faces on the team were, incidentally, part of the Royal Challengers not long ago. Yuzvendra Chahal, with 2 for 15, was the standout bowler of the evening and was instrumental in an athletic run-out of Virat Kohli. Navdeep Saini, meanwhile, dismissed Anuj Rawat and took a diving catch, removing Sherfane Rutherford.
Karthik (23-ball 44*) and Shahbaz (26-ball 45) was brought together by the Rutherford wicket, and the pair smacked 67 runs in 5.2 overs. Karthik was punishing the erring R Ashwin, especially with his lines. Shahbaz, rising to the occasion, was pulling Saini and Trent Boult for sixes at the back end.
And with this, the Royal Challengers accomplished their fifth straight win over the Royals in the IPL. It was also the team’s second win in a row this season, after they lost at the opening.
A positive start from Faf du Plessis and Rawat set the Royal Challengers in their chase of 170. But Sanju Samson turned to Chahal after that powerplay, with Samson bowling leg breaks landing on middle stump for most of his first over to du Plessis, but then he dragged one outside leg, forcing a mis-hit down the ground.
Saini, using a slower ball, trapped Rawat, who nicked behind Samson. Big blows were struck by the two ex-Royal Challengers.
It was looking like Kohli’s battle against Chahal was going to deliver premium entertainment for the stands, but it was cut short. At the non-striker’s end, Kohli tried to steal a single that David Willey was not interested in. Kohli eventually had to walk back for 5 due to an acrobatic run-grab-and-throw from Samson to Chahal.
On the next ball, Willey was fooled and got bowled by a Chahal leg break. From 55 for no loss, Royal Challengers went down to 62 for 4 in the space of 12 balls. Rutherford’s wicket not long after turned it into 87 for 5.
Ashwin, who up until his final over had gone for only 18, got hammered by Karthik. Karthik walloped Ashwin through backward square-leg, then over long-on. This was followed by mid-off and finally third man for a 21-run over, reigniting the Royal Challengers’ hopes.
Shahbaz had taken the back seat to reach 16 in 14 balls, but eventually got moving too. He struck a six and a four each off Boult and Prasidh Krishna. Even though Shabaz couldn’t finish the game off, the game was practically over by the time he was dismissed.
It was another opportunity for Karthik to show why he is among the most dangerous finishers in T20s. He has yet to be dismissed in the IPL. He has made 90 runs in 44 balls so far. He also makes use of the depth of the crease to maximum effect, putting bowlers off their mark and maximizing the area behind square on the leg side.
The Royals were able to get lifted to 169 after they were asked to bat first, thanks to a scrappy innings from Jos Buttler, some counter-punches from Devdutt Padikkal, and some big hits courtesy of Shimron Hetmyer.
After Willey had dismissed Yashasvi Jaiswal early, Padikkal hit two fours and two sixes in his 29-ball 37 from No. 3. But he was done in by a slower ball from Harshal Patel, who finished with figures of 1 for 18 in four overs.
The slog-overs push did eventually come with Hetmyer punishing Mohammed Siraj and Harshal in the 17th and 18th overs. Buttler creamed back-to-back sixes off Siraj’s 19th to reach his fifty in 42 balls.
Akash Deep then conceded three sixes in the 20th for the current Orange Cap holder to finish on 70 from 47. Hetmyer finished unbeaten on 42 in 31 balls.