By Suhas Nayse – SJFI Member
On a day when cricket lost one of its finest batsmen of yesteryears in the form of Dean Jones, KL Rahul lifted the mood of fans with his sparkling batting display at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Thursday.
Rahul played a captain’s knock of 132 not out to carry Kings XI Punjab to a huge 97-run victory against Royal Challengers Bangalore in the sixth match of the Dream11 Indian Premier League. It was their first victory in the second match of the competition.
The day belonged completely to Rahul and his team as they amassed 206 for 3. It was a one-way traffic as far as Rahul’s sensational batting show was concerned. The 28-year-old Rahul pummeled an electrifying unbeaten 132 to take his side single-handedly beyond the 200-run mark. The opener blasted 14 boundaries and seven towering sixes during his career-best innings. He faced just 69 balls and finished with an impressive strike rate of 191.30. It was the highest score by an Indian captain in the IPL.
During his spectacular knock, Rahul also became the fastest Indian to complete 2,000 runs in the IPL during his 60th innings. He shattered the record previously held by former Mumbai Indians captain Sachin Tendulkar. Overall, Rahul’s present teammate Chris Gayle tops the chart of scoring the fastest 2,000runs, racing the figure in just 48 innings.
After put in by RCB skipper Virat Kohli, Rahul and last-match top performer Mayank Agarwal (26: 20 balls, 4×4) provided a flying start to the innings by adding 57 runs in seven overs before the later was beaten by the Yuzvendra Chahal’s googly.
Man-of-the-match Rahul then joined Nicholas Pooran (17: 18 balls, 1×4) and continued the tempo of the innings. Although Glenn Maxwell (5) was dismissed early, Rahul maintained the high scoring rate with continuous flow of fours and sixes.
Joined by his Karnataka Ranji teammate, Karun Nair (15 not out: 8 balls, 2×4) in the final five overs, Rahul changed gears to floor RCB. He launched a severe attack against every RCB bowler to complete his century. After reaching the milestone, he cut loose and cleared ropes at will.
Rahul was dropped by Virat Kohli at the mid-wicket fence twice in as many overs which proved very costly. The duo of Rahul and Nair added a whopping 70-odd runs for the unbeaten fourth wicket stand in the last 4.4 overs to end the innings in style. Barring Shivam Dube (2 for 33 in 3 overs) and Chahal (1-25 in four overs) none of the RCB bowlers could restrict Rahul.
Once Kings XI Punjab amassed 200 plus total on the board, it was always going to be difficult for the RCB to chase down the target unless they got off to a flier.
Contrary to their bid, RCB were off to a disastrous start. They lost the top three batsmen including their superstar Virat Kohli when the score read just 4 on the board in the third over. They lost a wicket each in the first three overs. From that precarious position, RCB needed some magic to reach the target.
Aaron Finch (20) and AB de Villiers (28) stitched together a 49-run partnership for the fourth wicket to stay in the match. But once de Villiers was dismissed by Murugan Ashwin, it was all over for RCB. All-rounder Washingston Sundar was the top scorer with 30.
Both the spinners Ashwin and Ravi Bishnoi returned with three wickets each to derail RCB after seamer Sheldon Cottrell provided a double breakthrough at the beginning. They folded up at a paltry score of 109 in just 17 overs. Now both the teams have two points each to their credit after two matches.
Brief scores: Kings XI Punjab 206 for 3 in 20 overs (KL Rahul 132 not out, Mayank Agarwal 26, Nicholas Pooran 17, Karun Nair 15 not out; Shivam Dube 2-33, Yuzvendra Chahal 1-25) beat Royal Challengers Bangalore 109 all out in 17 overs (Washingston Sundar 30, AB de Villiers 28, Aaron Finch 20, Shivam Dube 12; Murugan Ashwin 3-21, Ravi Bishnoi 3-32, Sheldon Cottrell 2-17, Glenn Maxwell 1-10) by 97 runs.
Man-of-the-match: KL Rahul (Kings XI Punjab).