IPL 2019: AB de Villiers special keeps RCB's playoff hopes alive against Kings XI Punjab

Aditya Devavrat 23:30 24/04/2019
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AB de Villiers stole the show again.

RCB kept their faint hopes of making the IPL 2019 playoffs alive thanks to their third straight tight win. If anything, this 17-run victory over Kings XI Punjab was a comfortable margin after the nail-biters against Kolkata Knight Riders and Chennai Super Kings.

AB de Villiers was the architect of this win, hitting 82 off 44, with 58 off his last 19 balls to take RCB past 200. KL Rahul, Chris Gayle, and Mayank Agarwal gave Kings XI a good start, and Nicholas Pooran nearly provided the finish, but they couldn’t avoid a fifth defeat in seven games.

DEATH OVERS MAKE THE DIFFERENCE

Finishing the innings has been the toughest task for RCB this season, both with bat and ball. On Wednesday they managed both. They were 138-4 at the end of the 17th over of their innings, but De Villiers and Marcus Stoinis exploded in the last three to plunder 64 runs.

Hardus Viljoen had entered the death overs with figures of 1-8 from his first two overs, then went for 43 in his last two, while De Villiers hit Mohammad Shami for three sixes in a row in the 19th over.

Both batsman finished well after slow starts. De Villiers was on 25 off 25 at one point, while Stoinis was 26 off 30 when he took strike for the third ball of the final over. From those last four deliveries, he hit four, six, four, and six.

Punjab began their chase of 203 well, and they were ahead of the required rate after ten overs. With RCB’s death-bowling struggles all season – they nearly failed to defend 70 and 93 off the last five overs in their previous two games – even a slow-down after Rahul and Agarwal fell wouldn’t have concerned Kings XI too much, especially as they needed a comparatively paltry 60.

Yet this time, Bangalore’s death bowlers showed up. Though the 16th and 17th overs went for 24, after that Umesh Yadav conceded just six, Navdeep Saini bowled a superb 19th over with two wickets for just three runs, and Yadav came back to finish the job.

TWO TEAMS GOING IN OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS

Bangalore have a realistic shot of becoming the first team to reach the playoffs after losing the first six games of a season thanks to their current three-game winning run, even if they haven’t convinced during that spell. The next game in Delhi against the surging Capitals is their toughest remaining test, as after that they face the inconsistent Rajasthan Royals and a Sunrisers Hyderabad side that will be missing both David Warner and Jonny Bairstow, with both games at home.

Win all three and they’ll be on 14 points, a tally Delhi have already reached and Mumbai Indians will expect to, as well, as they’re currently on 12. Chennai have already qualified and it’s likely that those two teams will join them. After that, however, Bangalore can look at the other teams and still fancy their chances.

Hyderabad, on 10 points, have been in form in recent weeks, but the losses of Warner and Bairstow, their top two run-scorers, will hit them hard. Bangalore have already caught up Kolkata on eight points, albeit having played one game more, but the Knight Riders have lost five straight. And then there’s Punjab.

They’re sitting on 10 points and thus have a slight advantage over Bangalore, as well as Hyderabad for the aforementioned reasons – Punjab face no such major losses in their squad. But the current run of form is concerning, especially as it’s a repeat of last season when they started well before stumbling and failing to make the playoffs.

BRIEF SCORES

Royal Challengers Bangalore 202/4

AB de Villiers 82* (44)

Marcus Stoinis 46* (34)

R Ashwin 1/15

Kings XI Punjab 185/7

Nicholas Pooran 46 (28)

KL Rahul 42 (27)

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