Home >Industry >IPL 9: Clinical Gujarat Lions spoil Virat Kohli’s party

Yet another box was ticked in Virat Kohli’s to-do list on Sunday (April 24). Half-centuries have come by the dozen for the virtuoso recently—in just four games of the ongoing Indian Premier League 2016, he had managed three fifties. He was typically unsatisfied though, and admitted disappointment at not doing more, despite scoring 80 in his previous outing. Unsurprisingly, he went on to score his first century in the Twenty20 format at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot. Unfortunately for the Royal Challengers Bangalore skipper, the occasion was marred by Gujarat Lions, who coasted to a six-wicket victory, led first by Brendon McCullum and then Dinesh Karthik.

Kohli’s superlative 63-ball unbeaten 100 formed a majority of Bangalore’s total of 180 for 2, followed by KL Rahul’s 35-ball unbeaten 51. But Gujarat completed their chase with three balls to spare, their 182 for 4 propelled by Karthik’s 39-ball unbeaten 50.

When Dwayne Smith walked out with Brendon McCullum, thoughts immediately went back to Chennai Super Kings and the number of times the two had gotten them off to a good start. It was the case this time as well. When Kohli decided Bangalore would bat first, he had banked on the track getting harder for the batsmen in the second innings, but that was taken out of the equation by the openers’ spitfire 47-stand. With Smith attacking the spinners with particular vehemence, the Power Play phase was clearly won by Gujarat.

Smith holed out off Kane Richardson, but in that same over, something clicked in McCullum. He hammered four consecutive boundaries – two sixes and two fours – and 25 runs were added to the total. It changed the course of the match. Thereafter, Bangalore were always fighting to keep things under control. McCullum fell to Tabraiz Shamsi, the chinaman bowler, for a 24-ball 42, but the openers’ outburst had set a solid foundation.

Suresh Raina capitalised on that, and kept the scoreboard ticking over. He ensured the spinners were never allowed to settle, unleashing crisp drives through the off, and Bangalore’s high after the wickets quickly died down. With Karthik providing solid support, the two ran the singles, adding a steady 53. The plan was to keep the target in sight and unleash but in an attempt to do that in the 16th over, Raina holed out to Yuzvendra Chahal, the legspinner.

In came Ravindra Jadeja and he promptly slog-swept Iqbal Abdulla for a mammoth six. Gujarat had luck on their side as well – in the next over off Richardson, Karthik was handed a let off when on 33. He made them pay in Abdulla’s following over, with a lap sweep to the fine-leg fence and another four to long-on, reducing the runs required to seven off the last over. Karthik completed his half-century off 39 balls and despite Jadeja being dismissed by Shane Watson thereafter, the job was finished by Dwayne Bravo.

Earlier, Watson’s experiment at the top of the order failed, but Kohli and AB de Villiers joined forces and, as has been the case so far this season, clicked into gear instantly. They added 51 for the second wicket—they have associated for over 50 runs in every game so far – before de Villiers fell to Pravin Tambe, sending one straight to Raina at cover.

All the while, Kohli was a sight to watch. Championing the cause of orthodoxy in the age of the unconventional, he picked the gaps on either side with the efficiency to match German car manufacturers. His wrists seemed to be made of supple steel. The covers drive was his religion. His footwork was an education. He even guided Rahul and coaxed out the best out him—the latter’s half-century included four fours and three sixes.

On a big outfield, with the likes of McCullum, Raina and Jadeja manning the park, boundaries not only had to be earned, the batsmen also had to run hard to keep the scoreboard ticking. That was a feature of the 121-run unbroken partnership between Rahul and Kohli. They took the score past the 100-mark and settled themselves ahead of the death overs. With four overs to go, Kohli walked over to Rahul and asked him to up the ante. Rahul responded with consecutive sixes off Dhawal Kulkarni and brought up his half-century.

All eyes were on Kohli though, who needed 14 off the last three balls from Dwayne Bravo to reach three figures. By this point, the crowd—at Gujarat’s home ground—were cheering for Kohli. A big swing for six was followed by fours straight down and over point, and Kohli had his hundred. He celebrated with typical gusto, arms spread out, a look up to the heavens, seemingly yelling the word: “Finally!"

As satisfying as it would have been personally for Kohli, he would have dearly loved a victory.

Manoj Narayan is Senior Staff Writer at Wisden India. Mint has a content partnership with Wisden India for the IPL 9 season.

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