Ben Stokes might not always justify the hefty price tag that he was bought for at the Indian Premier League [IPL] auction earlier this year, but he showed his worth with a splendid bowling performance against the Royal Challengers Bangalore [RCB] at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium on Sunday.
The English all-rounder picked up three wickets and gave away only 18 runs in his four overs to guide Pune to just their second win of this season.
In fact, the crucial wicket of RCB captain Virat Kohli in Stokes’ first over was probably the turning point of the match as Kohli and AB de Villiers looked set to take the game away from the visitors.
Earlier in the day, Kohli had won the toss and put Pune into bat on what everyone thought was a very good wicket for batting. And it certainly looked that way when Supergiant’s openers Ajinkya Rahane and Rahul Tripathi started off in a very attacking manner.
The duo brought up the 50-run stand in just five overs before the partnership was cut short on 63 by Samuel Badree who bowled Rahane.
MS Dhoni was promoted up the order to number four and the former India captain, along with Steve Smith, added 58 runs for the third wicket before both batsmen were dismissed in quick succession.
That brought about a significant collapse as Pune went from 127-2 to 130-7, losing five wickets for just three runs.
Adam Milne, who was playing his first game of the season, and local lad Sreenath Aravind were the most impressive of the bowlers for the Royal Challengers – with both accounting for two wickets each.
Pune, though, would get some momentum at the end of their innings as Manoj Tiwary managed to score 29 from just 11 deliveries, a knock which would go on to be a priceless one.
Defending 162, Supergiant fast bowler Shardul Thakur saw Kohli dropped off his second delivery but managed to get the scalp of Mandeep Singh in the same over.
The Royal Challengers seemed to have the required run-rate under control for the initial part of the chase, but the wicket of de Villiers in the 11th over changed the match on its head. Imran Tahir found sharp turn from the surface and Dhoni completed a lightening quick stumping to send the South Africa ODI captain back to the pavillion.
Now, at 70-3, the match looked evenly balanced but Kedar Jadhav and Shane Watson simply failed to get going which turned the match in Pune’s favour. The duo faced 40 deliveries between them and managed just one boundary.
Stuart Binny hit two fours and a six during his eight-ball 18, but the damage was already done as Smith and co. went on to win the game by 27 runs.
Pune have climbed up to sixth in the latest standings, with two wins from five matches while the Royal Challengers find themselves at the bottom spot with just one victory in the same number of games.
Rising Pune Supergiant 161-8, 20 overs [Tripathi 31, Rahane 30, Milne 2-27, Aravind 2-29] beat Royal Challengers Bangalore 134-9, 20 overs [De Villiers 29, Kohli 28, Stokes 3-18, Thakur 3-35] by 27 runs.
Player of the Match – Ben Stokes