Kohli fifty books No. 2 spot for RCB
Royal Challengers Bangalore 139 for 4 (Kohli 54*) beat Delhi Daredevils 138 for 8 (de Kock 60, Chahal 3-32) by six wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
It seemed a little like grandstanding when Virat Kohli said he "loved" that Royal Challengers Bangalore had to win four out of four matches to quality for the playoffs. That was two weeks ago, when his team was placed sixth and he had recorded his first single-digit score of the season. Since then the lowest Kohli has been dismissed for is 109 and Royal Challengers have racked up the back-to-back wins they needed. Their six-wicket dismantling of Delhi Daredevils on Sunday took them up to second place on the points table, a qualifier at home and a second shot at a place in the IPL final.
Raipur provided the toughest batting conditions yet for Royal Challengers this season. The pitch had extra bounce, and the boundaries were long enough that top edges and mis-hits didn't simply skip away. Their bowlers made use of both and strangled Daredevils to 138 for 8. That Quinton de Kock contributed 60 of those runs exemplifies the lack of application from the rest of the Daredevils batsmen.
Kohli understood hitting through the line wasn't prudent. When he had tried to do so in the sixth over, a good length ball from Chris Morris had straightened, kissed the edge and fell short of Karun Nair at first slip. Royal Challengers had already lost Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers. Losing the man who has averaged nearly 100 in T20 cricket in 2016 too could have been catastrophic.
Kohli, though, refused to give his wicket away. He concentrated on the singles and twos and barring a pristine on-drive that totally disrespected a good length ball on middle stump and an inside edge to fine leg, the rest of his six fours came off deliveries that were short, down leg or overpitched. He struck the winning runs with 11 balls to spare and his unbeaten 45-ball 54 propelled his average above 100 in 2016.
The most pleasing aspect of the Royal Challengers' victory, however, lay in the efficiency of their bowlers. Left-arm seamer S Aravind made the first blow immediately after de Kock catch was dropped off his bowling. Yuzvendra Chahal did not spin the ball much, but he was able to make it kick up off the pitch. That aspect accounted for two of his three wickets - Sanju Samson was caught behind attempting a late cut and de Kock holed out to long-off.
On both occasions the batsman had seemed rather unhappy. Samson felt he did not nick it, but replays suggested the ball had run off the face and into wicketkeeper KL Rahul's gloves. De Kock was stopped before he left the ground so the umpires could check the no-ball. Replays in this case indicated Chahal had overstepped, but the third umpire Virender Sharma disagreed.
Bad luck, however, was a distant second in the list of reasons why Daredevils, having won five out of seven matches at the start of the season, crashed out. Tweaks in selection - some forced by injury and others strategic - didn't give them continuity. On Sunday, they dropped JP Duminy, who was out of form but had the experience to come good in a crunch match, for Sam Billings, who hadn't played since May 7.
The other change, Morris, worked a little better. He was held back until No. 8 - another questionable move - and struck and unbeaten 27 off 13 balls. His height and hit-the-deck style of bowling had Gayle bowled off the inside edge in the second over. Daredevils built on that in the next over when a Zaheer Khan delivery got big on de Villiers and had him spooning a catch to cover point. At 17 for 2, Royal Challengers needed a partnership. They got one as Rahul lent a hand to Kohli and the 66 runs they added took the team within striking distance of victory.
The Daredevils innings had cried out for two batsmen to take responsibility like that. De Kock, brought up on the fast and bouncy tracks in Johannesburg, did well to keep one end ticking along. His six down the ground off Aravind was simple and brutal and a four to fine leg off a ball that had been outside off showcased his inventiveness. But his partners were less adept at coping with the pitch and the nagging bowling.
Rishabh Pant nicked off for 1 to Aravind. Karun Nair was caught brilliantly on the boundary by Kohli, who had tracked the ball down from mid-off. Samson played an excellent slog sweep by smothering Chahal's legspin but fell the next ball. Billings could not get on top of a Chris Jordan delivery and was caught by a diving Gayle at point. Pawan Negi, elevated to No. 6, to hit the legspinner and left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla off their line was dismissed for 6 off 12 and Carlos Brathwaite guided his second ball to point. Daredevils lost five wickets for 36 runs and lurched from 71 for 2 in the 10th over to 107 for 7 in the 17th. A recovery from there was just too much of an ask.
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo