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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Max-imum impact: The Aussie & Harshal Patel script third RCB win in a row

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On a day when Kolkata Knight Riders captain Eoin Morgan got his tactics wrong, Glenn Maxwell continued his impressive run for Royal Challengers Bangalore to score a 49-ball 78, while AB de Villiers provided the final flourish with another turbo-charged half-century, plundering 55 runs out of the 70 in the last five overs that took them to 204/4. On a dry, sluggish pitch in Chennai, these contributions were vital as KKR went down by 38 runs. Virat Kohli’s team now sits atop the points table with three wins on the bounce.

KKR undone by RCB’s death-overs hangman

Maxwell and Harshal Patel have turned out to be the two best additions for the RCB this season. While the Australian has made the No.4 spot in the batting order his own with game-changing contributions, Patel, the previously unheralded Haryana pacer, is relishing his role as a death-overs specialist. He may not have the pace — nudges around 130kmph at best. But he makes up for it with cricketing intelligence. After Patel returned figures of 5/27 against defending champions Mumbai Indians in the season-opener, captain Kohli said he had solved his team’s death-overs woes. On Sunday, he gave further proof of his rising stock with another stellar bowling performance to finish with 2/17, and take his tally to nine scalps from three games. The Purple Cap holder came in to bowl in the 12th over, with KKR needing 112 runs from 54 deliveries, and Morgan ready for the assault. Couple of erratic overs from Patel could have swung the game. But Patel held his nerve, and unfurled a mix of cutters and yorkers that Morgan found difficult to negotiate. It was a vicious dipper that accounted for the KKR captain in the 14th over. Patel returned in the final over to remove Russell.

Having a well-defined role has helped in his preparation. “When we had gathered for the camp, there was a clear instruction to me that I would be required to bowl at least two overs at the death. That gave me a lot of clarity to work on my skills,” Patel had said after his five-wicket haul against Mumbai.

Maxwell shows his maturity and Morgan misses a trick

Couple of nights ago, Chennai Super Kings captain MS Dhoni used Deepak Chahar for four overs upfront, and the pacer ran through Punjab Kings’ top order with a four-wicket burst that paved the way for an emphatic six-wicket win. KKR’s World Cup-winning England captain Morgan is known for his tactical acumen, but seemed to miss a trick on Sunday afternoon. Bowling first on this Chennai pitch that is receptive to spin, KKR’s Varun Chakravarty had orchestrated a double strike in his opening over, removing Kohli and Rajat Patidar. Conventional wisdom suggested that Chakravarthy would be given at least another over inside the Powerplay. Surprisingly, Morgan removed the mystery spinner after just the solitary over, which turned the tide in RCB’s favour.

Given the inherent sluggishness of the track, it’s never easy for a new batsman to play shots from the outset. With Chakravarthy out of the attack, neither Shakib Al Hasan nor Pat Cummins were able to hit their straps. It allowed Maxwell to launch himself on the proceedings. Turning out for a new franchise, the Australian has managed to reclaim his form and confidence, with scores of 39 and 59 from the first two games. Batting at No.4 has liberated him, giving him ample time to get set before the blitzkrieg. The assurance of having a player like de Villiers waiting in the dugout has also played a part in Maxwell’s turnaround.

He kept getting his front leg out of the way and pummelling Shakib over mid-wicket and long-on with glee. The Bangladeshi spinner was guilty of bowling in Maxwell’s hitting zone. From 10/2 after 3 overs, RCB raced to 45/2 after the Powerplay, and 95/3 in the 12th over, with Maxwell notching up a 28-ball 50. In the company of de Villiers, the 32-year-old showcased his maturity, by not trying to biff everything out of the park. He churned the singles and twos effortlessly, hitting only those deliveries that were in his arc. His restraint and the intelligent pacing of his innings were the fundamental reasons for his success. The Victorian succumbed in the 17th over, top-edging Cummins to Harbhajan Singh at fine-leg. But by then, he had put RCB in a strong position. Walking in at 9/2, he had increased the tempo with ease, and maintained a strike rate of over 150.


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