BANGALORE - Yuvraj Singh enjoyed his best day in months, scoring a blistering 38-ball 83 and then picking up four wickets, but Rajasthan Royals showed once more on Sunday night that any individual brilliance thrown at them can be countered with all-round effort. Royal Challengers Bangalore posted 190 for 5 and then reduced Rajasthan to 106 for 5, but they would make no further inroads as Steve Smith and James Faulkner muscled their team home with seven balls to spare.
Bangalore would not have been wrong in thinking they had the game in the bag as late as 16 overs into the chase. With 65 needed from 24 balls, Faulkner took on Mitchell Starc, smacking 21 off the 17th over. Ashok Dinda, handed the ball for the 18thover, outdid his team-mate in a sequence that read 6-4-4-1-1-NB6 in which the only saving grace was that the extra ball resulting from the free-hit in the end was a dot.
Varun Aaron, charged with keeping the game alive so Starc could come into play in the final over, bowled a length ball and two full-tosses that Faulkner monstered for boundaries to finish the game in the penultimate over. Faulkner, unbeaten on 41 from only 17 balls, was the Man of the Match, overshadowing Smith, whose 48 had come off 21 balls.
When the game began, Bangalore looked to do things differently from the word go as Virat Kohli won the toss and strode out to open the innings with Chris Gayle. But, while the intent was spot on, Rajasthan’s opening pair of Kane Richardson and Shane Watson swung the ball just enough to ensure that no roaring start was possible. Kohli, clearly desperate to get some momentum going, flashed hard at Richardson to be caught at third man, and with the score reading 6 for 1 after three overs, the loyalty and optimism of a packed house at the Chinnaswamy Stadium was sorely tested.
Gayle showed enough desperation to smear three boundaries, but he too was far from settled and only managed 19 before feathering an edge to the keeper. Vijay Zol, playing his first match of the season, made it 40 for 3 as he got a thick edge to slip to a Rahul Tewatia googly. Tewatia, bowling with great control to a set plan, did not show any of the left-hand batsmen a single legbreak, taking the ball away consistently.
With a proper wobble on, Yuvraj and AB de Villiers came together, and Bangalore’s cause was not helped by their one in-form batsman struggling for timing. With de Villiers not able to get on top of the bowling, Yuvraj deployed the sweep to great effect, making clean contact thrice early on against the legbreak twins, Tewatia and Pravin Tambe. At the halfway mark of the innings, Bangalore were 57 for 3, well below par, but Yuvraj had the measure not merely of a good batting surface, but also a bowling line-up in which each bowler stuck to a specific line of attack.
When the ball was full, Yuvraj played with the straightest of bats, swinging hard but with impeccable timing, to deposit the ball into the stands over midwicket with ease. Every bowler suffered at Yuvraj’s hands, and he was good enough to adapt to the different methods used to try and curb him. The mischievous smile hadn’t quite returned, but when you strike 14 of the 38 balls you face to the ropes or over them, the enjoyment is evident. At the death, when the quicker bowlers pushed the ball through well wide of the stumps at a full length, Yuvraj left all three stumps exposed, and smacked a flat, straight six over long-off that would not have been out of place in a pick-up game on the street.
As Yuvraj found his full range of strokes, de Villiers adjusted to Rajasthan’s method of taking the pace of the ball by playing late. The short ball was pulled fiercely, de Villiers’ first boundary coming off the 20th ball he faced, and anything full was carved over cover point.
Yuvraj and de Villiers had put on 132 in only 65 balls when they were separated, Yuvraj being trapped in front by Kane Richardson off the last ball of the 19th over. Yuvraj’s 83 had come off only 38 balls, and seven fours and as many sixes took Bangalore to 190 for 5. De Villiers’ 32-ball 58, meanwhile, ensured that the home stretch was a flat-out sprint, 84 coming off the last five overs.
Rajasthan, needing 191, began with assurance, Ajinkya Rahane and Karun Nair bringing up their 50-run partnership in only the seventh over. Yuzvendra Chahal struck with his first ball, inducing the edge from Rahane (24), and once the door was opened Yuvraj turned the screws. Watson, shaping to cut, had his leg pole pegged back by an arm ball; Stuart Binny charged and holed out to cover; Sanju Samson was comprehensively beaten in the flight to pop a return catch; Yuvraj even returned to pick up Nair, whose enterprising 56 had been the lone bright spot in the first half of Rajasthan’s batting. With 4 for 35, Yuvraj had done more than his share, but the Smith-Faulkner mayhem that followed made a mockery of the target, leaving Yuvraj, and his team, despondent.
V Kohli c Bhatia b Richardson 4
C Gayle c Samson b Tambe 19
V Zol c Watson b Tewatia 16
AB de Villiers c Rahane b Faulkner 58
Yuvraj Singh lbw b Richardson 83
J Morkel not out 1
P Patel not out 2
EXTRAS: (lb2, w5) 7
TOTAL: (5 wkts; 20 overs) 190
FOW: 1-6, 2-38, 3-40, 4-172, 5-186
K Richardson 4-0-43-2, S Watson 4-0-35-0, J Faulkner 4-0-42-1, P Tambe 4-0-38-1, R Tewatia 3-0-17-1, R Bhatia 1-0-13-0
A Rahane c Patel b Chahal 24
K Nair b Yuvraj 56
S Watson b Yuvraj 1
S Binny c sub b Yuvraj 1
S Samson c & b Yuvraj 13
S Smith not out 48
J Faulkner not out 41
EXTRAS: (lb1, w5, nb1) 7
TOTAL: (5 wkts; 18.5 overs) 191
FOW: 1-54, 2-61, 3-63, 4-82, 5-106
BOWLING: J Morkel 2-0-20-0, M Starc 3-0-33-0, A Dinda 3-0-37-0, V Aaron 2.5-0-41-0, Yuvraj Singh 4-0-35-4, Y Chahal 4-0-24-1
UMPIRES: S Ravi, RJ Tucker (Aus)
TV UMPIRE: K Srinath
MATCH REFEREE: A Pycroft (Zim)