The late appearance of dew in Mumbai the previous night cost KKR the match but it didn’t deter Shane Watson and Royal Challengers Bangalore from electing to bat after winning the toss at Indore’s Holkar Cricket Stadium tonight. KKR had lost the plot in a tense final over where catches were put down and even ground shots slipped through the fingers at Mumbai. Watson, however, won the toss and going against popular perception, chose to bat.
Trying to hide a weakness in batting
Perhaps the Australian wanted his bowling to soak up the pressure rather than the batting, which was missing Virat Kohli. AB de Villiers made his way back into the team, but at the cost of Chris Gayle. On a small ground, where as many as 20 sixes were hit in a low-scoring affair, the Jamaican’s experience and power would have been invaluable. With Gayle sitting out, much depended on how the Australian-South African duo would perform.
On a pitch where Axar Patel was getting the ball to grip right in the first over, it immediately began to appear that batting first might not have been the best choice. On the final delivery of the over, which went for only two runs, Watson lost patience and attempted to cut the ball only to under edge it onto his stumps. It was a horror start for the visiting team after having chosen to bat first. Even though Watson was replaced by AB de Villiers at the crease, the pressure was on the Bangalore outfit.
Watson’s choice meant that his batsmen were already under pressure to perform before they walked out to bat. In order to defend successfully, they would first need a big score. The pitch which appeared to be a good batting surface began by offering some grip to the slower bowlers. For the visitors’ free stroking batsmen, the accurate bowling was helped by the pitch which was playing a bit two-paced.
Tight bowling by the hosts
The Kings XI Punjab, playing their second home game in Indore, piled on the pressure with some fine bowling and kept the visitors down to just 23 runs from the six powerplay overs. The batsmen too didn’t press enough for the singles. Apart from AB de Villiers, none of the other batsmen could even manage to score at a run-a-ball. The brakes had been applied on the scoring and it looked like RCB would need a stellar batting performance to get them to a respectable total.
AB de Villiers didn’t disappoint. The crowd kept chanting his name although he was playing for the visiting side. It was clear that the fans had come in to witness something special by the South African. Once the star batsman began raining sixes, the crowd went berserk. Suddenly, a terrible start had been converted into a fighting total. The bowling would need to show considerable bite in order to derail the home side as also some assistance from the pitch.
Sadly for Virat Kohli’s side, neither of those possibilities took shape. The bowling lacked bite as the pitch eased up and the ball began to come on to the bat nicely. Fielders, as expected, had a tough time with the onset of dew, as did the bowlers. It is tough to think that the RCB captain would not have considered this happening. Had the Indian captain been fit enough to play, the team would definitely have decided to chase.
De Villiers has to rebuild the innings
The South African who would have liked to ideally arrive at the crease after a decent opening stand, had to walk out in the second over, with only two runs on the board. Although the South African played one of the best T20 innings so far this season, it was still not enough to prop the visitors up to a big score. At the 15th over mark, he was 31 off 27 balls, but off the next 19 deliveries he faced, 58 runs were plundered as he ended the innings unbeaten on 89 off 46.
The lack of support at the other end also hurt the Bangalore team as the scoreboard moved at snail’s pace until the fireworks started in the last quarter. Deciding to bat first and then getting bogged down by the regular loss of wickets and a slow scoring rate really put the nail in RCB’s coffin. Despite a mind-blowing innings by AB, the visitors could only manage to muster 148.
Had the visiting team decided to chase, his finishing skills would have made a great impact on the game. With the ball coming on to the bat nicely as the night wore on, his power hitting all around the park would have been devastating. It might have been a home game for the King’s XI Punjab, but the crowd was boisterously behind the South African and the visiting team.
For his strange decision to bat, Shane Watson’s choice is the turning point of the match. Going against the accepted notion that chasing under lights is easier, he chose to put his batsmen under pressure and most of them could not cope with it. His decision to bat first very likely cost them the match, and once again proved how difficult it is to defend a total in the IPL.