RCB through to playoffs second consecutive season

Winning yet another close game, RCB has sealed it's spot in the playoffs by beating Punjab Kings by 6 runs.

RCB through to playoffs second consecutive season

By Vadiraj Kanakagiri

This is only the first time in the history of the IPL that RCB has made it to the playoffs in two consecutive seasons (since playoffs has replaced semifinals). And with RCB showing immense calmness and all the players seeming like they've understood their role and performing it to their best, this time, it really feels like, 'E sala cup Namde'.

In yesterday's game, Kings had ten times the pressure of what RCB might've had. RCB had to win just one out of their remaining three games whereas the Kings needed to win them all. This factor might've played into the hands of the boys from Bengaluru. Because if there is any precedent that's been set by the nature of play that Punjab plays, it is, when put in pressure situations, more often than they will crumble. Doesn't matter how much of a stronghold they had up till that point in the game, if they encounter a situation even remotely resembles pressure, they can be put into submission.

Winning the toss, skipper Virat had no hesitation in batting first. The scorching heat might've been the factor one may think. But putting Punjab under pressure in a run chase seemed to be the master plan behind this decision. Virat and Padikkal started in their usual defensive-aggressive fashion. Kohli was given multiple chances, but couldn't make it count and got out on 25.

Henriques was brought in for Nathan Ellis and Rahul had to somehow finish his overs without leaking many. But, as a surprise, for both the teams really, he was the pick of bowlers. First he cleaned up Virat Kohli, with a good length delivery that kept a bit low. In a surprise move, RCB sent Christian at No.3 in search of quick runs. But on his very first delivery Henriques removed Christian for a golden duck. In his second over, he made his figures even better, by getting rid of Devdatt Padikkal who was holding the innings together. He finished his spell with magnificent figures of 4-0-12-3.

But the difference between the two sides, as it has been in many games this season, was Glenn Maxwell. On a pitch where everyone struggled to get going, Maxi had no troubles in sending the ball over the ropes multiple times. He is so oozing with confidence and has defined his role perfectly, we're finally getting to see the replica of Maxi, when he plays for Australia. On a small Sharjah ground, he took a special liking to the spinners and punished them whenever they missed their lengths. He, with AB, took the score above par, and Maxi got out on the final over on a swashbuckling 57 of just 33.

Sarfaraz Khan, who famously got dropped from the RCB team when he was here, for his lesser abilities as a fielder, as an irony dropped a catch of Virat Kohli earlier in the innings. But, he got his guard up, when he hit the bulls eye and scored a direct hit to get rid off De Villiers. He also took a couple of catches to make sure he's no pushover in the field. Some awesome death bowling by Shami, who picked three himself, restricted the RCB total to 164, which was the highest score at Sharjah for this year's IPL.

Rahul and Mayank have got up to be up there with the best opening pairs of all time in the history of T20 cricket. The number of half-century, century partnerships both have provided is just mind boggling. Yesterday was no different. After having a look for a couple of overs, both the batsmen took the RCB bowlers on, albeit respecting the good deliveries but rightly punished the bad ones. They put on 91 inside 11 overs, without even being too aggressive or taking too many risks.

But RCB was waiting for an opening. Just one, and they knew after that, the batting line up would crumble like a pack of cards. So they waited. And they got their man, in the form of KL Rahul. Trying to go for a big one by stepping out of his crease, Rahul edged one straight to short third and made the cardinal sin of letting the opposition, a sniff. And that was all RCB needed. It's pretty much unbelievable that one person's wicket up top, that too after a near 100 run stand, is making the opposing team believe they're in top. But such has been the team formation and the style of play that Punjab had carried on, and they're paying for it every time.

Chahal was bowling like a dream. He looked like a leg spinner from a previous era. The flight, the guile, the dip he possesses and put on display was so eye-catching, that too in a small ground.

Coming in at three, Pooran never looked settled. His horrific run with the bat continued as he top edged a sweep straight into the hands of Padikkal at deep square off Chahal. Then the spinster removed the other hope that Punjab were banking on, Mayank Agarwal, inducing a top edge with a top spinner.

On the very next delivery, Chahal removed his old RCB teammate, Sarfaraz Khan, with an absolute beauty of a delivery. It's one thing that Sarfaraz hasn't played for long, but the delivery he faced, would've cleaned up the best in the business. Chahal flighted one that pitched outside leg, dipped just in front of the batter, and turned enough to beat the pad and outside edge of the bat and castled into the off stump. Sarfaraz Khan had absolutely no clue what got to him. Chahal ended his spell with a three for.

The new death bowling sensation, Harshal 'Purple' Patel, proved to be too hot to handle for the Punjab batters at the end. His cunning slower delivery, dipping yorkers and many more in his armory, tied the hands of the batters at the end. Having to defend 19 off the last, he did it like a piece of cake and RCB were through to the playoffs whereas KL Rahul and his team suffered a loss in yet another close encounter.

Brief scores: Royal Challengers Bangalore 164/7 in 20 overs (Devdutt Padikkal 40, Glenn Maxwell 57; Mohammed Shami 3-39, Moises Henriques 3-12) beat Punjab Kings 158/6 in 20 overs (KL Rahul 39, Mayank Agarwal 57; Yuzvendra Chahal 3-29) by 6 runs.