ESPNcricinfo – Virat Kohli has been vaulting the standard for T20 batting this season. He was
twitchy, though, after heavy rain delayed the start of Royal Challengers Bangalore’s final league fixture at home against Kings XI Punjab by nearly two hours. Not even the apprehensions of having to bat with nine stitches on his left hand because of a split webbing could stop him from scoring his fourth century in his last nine innings. He also topped the IPL run charts during his 50-ball 113 that powered Royal Challengers to an 82-run victory via D/L method. Royal Challengers’ seventh win meant that they jumped from fifth to second on the points table.
was in his groove too, bashing 73 off 32 balls in a 147-run opening stand that floored Kings XI, who conceded 211 for 3 after opting to bowl in a 15-over shootout. Kohli was the first to reach his half-century, off 28 balls, when he whipped Axar Patel to long-on. Four legitimate balls later, Gayle swiped the left-arm spinner over midwicket for six and raced to his own half-century off 29 balls. The two then got together and unfurled the champion jig.
Kings XI could have snapped that had Axar nailed a direct hit from backward point to run Kohli out on 10. The batsman prospered and middled everything: whether it was lofting a full ball inside-out over cover or jabbing a wide yorker in the gap between backward point and short third man. He got to his hundred off 47 balls when he whiplashed Sandeep Sharma for four between deep midwicket and long-on.
Kohli celebrated the landmark by pointing to his injured left hand repeatedly before pumping his fists. The only occasion he showed apparent discomfort was when he ran in from long-off and caught Axar for 13 in the eighth over of Kings XI’s stumbling chase.
Kohli began the run-fest with slapped fours of Sandeep before Gayle went 6,6,4 against fast bowler Kyle Abbott in the fourth over. KC Cariappa’s assortment of legbreaks, offbreaks, sliders and even a seam-up that clocked 134kph, proved ineffective. Kohli and Gayle flayed him for 55 runs in three overs and left captain M Vijay searching for answers.
Axar wasn’t spared either, Gayle taking him for three leg-side sixes in four balls before holing out to the same bowler at the end of the 11th over. Four balls later, Abbott had AB de Villiers dragging on for a duck. KL Rahul applied the finishing touches with a cameo, which was studded by a reverse-scooped four, after Kohli’s dismissal in the penultimate over.
The pressure of a rapidly rising asking rate was too much for Kings XI. Left-arm seamer S Aravind removed Vijay and Hashim Amla early before legspinner Yuzvendra Chahal made light work of the middle order with career-best T20 figures of 4 for 25. Kings XI limped past 100 in the 12th over before rain returned at the end of the 14th to force an end to a lop-sided contest.
Royal Challengers are one of the three teams in the playoffs race to have a positive net rate (+0.93), and a win in their final match against Delhi Daredevils in Raipur on Sunday could confirm their place in the final four.
Scores: Royal Challengers Bangalore 211 for 3 in 15 overs (Kohli 113, Gayle 73) beat Kings XI Punjab 120 for 9 in 14 overs (Saha 24, Chahal 4-25) by 82 runs (D/L method).
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