Kings XI Punjab had chosen Indore as a new ‘home’ venue for the Indian Premier League 2017, but as several teams have discovered, home crowd or not, when a certain Superman from South Africa walks out, the audience rises as one, cheers him as one and vociferously demands sixes in unison.
On Monday (April 10), AB de Villiers obliged those at the Holkar Cricket Stadium with a stunning, audacious, sublime 89 not out off just 46 balls in his comeback from injury, but the rest of the Royal Challengers Bangalore batting line-up faltered badly to put on a mere 148 for 4 in their 20 overs.
On a small ground with a quick outfield, that was never going to test Punjab and they duly completed a comfortable chase, winning by eight wickets in just 14.3 overs to make it two wins in two matches under Glenn Maxwell’s captaincy. Hashim Amla made it a good day for former South African Test captains with a feisty unbeaten 58 off 38, while Maxwell finished the chase off with a six to be 43 not out off 22.
It seemed as if three matches were being played on the same strip. In the first, the Bangalore batsmen collectively couldn’t seem to put bat on ball even for the simple act of getting to the other end. On the second, de Villiers could direct the ball to whichever part of the field he wanted it to clear the fence on. On the third, an energized Punjab line-up treated a below-par total with the disdain it deserved.
Bangalore had begun badly, with Shane Watson chopping Axar Patel on to his stumps to close out the first over, bringing de Villiers in to bat. That the master batsman spent 19 overs at the crease but faced only 46 balls was a telling indictment of the complete inability of Bangalore’s batsmen to not just score, but also turn the strike over to the man who was scoring at will.
De Villiers got off the mark with what he thought was a steer off Mohit Sharma that could have fetched a single, but the timing was so good it raced to the fence. There was little else to cheer for Bangalore though in the initial phase. Vishnu Vinod, promoted to open, couldn’t get a move on and was predictably out slogging. Kedar Jadhav was unfortunate to be adjudged lbw for just 1 in Varun Aaron’s first over. Aaron did beat the batsman, and struck him on the pads with an incoming delivery, but it seemed too high, and replays confirmed the ball would have gone over the stumps.
That left Bangalore 22 for 3, and brought Mandeep Singh to the middle. Mandeep stuck around in a 46-run stand with de Villiers, but it took up 49 balls of which Mandeep faced 34. There was credit due to the Punjab bowlers, who kept de Villiers off the strike.
The bowlers all kept things extremely tight, only faltering when confronted with the superhuman talents of de Villiers. He added an unbeaten 80 for the fifth wicket with Stuart Binny in just 41 balls, with Binny’s contribution being 18 not out off 20.
At the end of 15 overs, Bangalore were 71 for 4, and thanks to de Villiers, outscored that in the last five, with 77 runs coming. De Villiers had already hit a flat six over cover early on, but in the last five overs, he not only got a majority of the deliveries for once, but went into all-out attack mode. Aaron, Marcus Stoinis, Mohit and Sandeep all came in for punishment, with de Villiers ending with nine sixes, two of them off the last two balls of the innings.
Punjab would have known that they had a straightforward job on their hands and the opening duo gave them the perfect platform. Amla was aggressive without ever being brutal, while Manan Vohra too found pleasing touch in stroking 34 off 21 before being fooled by Tymal Mills to be trapped in front. But with 62 for 1 in six overs, the danger of an early collapse and giving Bangalore a look-in had been avoided.
Amla was fortunate that Billy Stanlake not only let the ball burst through his fingers at fine leg off Mills, but also saw it go for six, giving the batsman a costly reprieve on 20.
Axar was promoted to No.3. He couldn’t reproduce his bowling form, which got him 1 for 12 in four overs, and fell to Yuzvendra Chahal, but with Maxwell coming in and getting into his stride from the start, the chase was never in trouble.
Maxwell also had a life, slicing Watson straight to Iqbal Abdulla at point only for the ball to burst through again, but with Punjab already 107 for 2 in 11 overs then, Bangalore had a steep climb back in any case.
The end came in a flurry of sixes, Maxwell and Amla showing there were no demons in the pitch. De Villiers had shown that in the first half, and Punjab might have been thankful that it was not just him they were playing against, but ten others too – none of whom could reach his level.