Kohli ends lean season with fifty
Leading up to their final match of IPL 2017, Royal Challengers Bangalore had totaled 1684 runs from 12 outings with the bat. It was just 24 more than what Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers alone had managed in 2016. Neither had had half the success this time around. Kohli had 250 runs after nine matches, and only in three seasons had the average - 27.77 - been lower. On the rare occasion he did fire, the rest of the team let him down - he had three half-centuries before Sunday and Royal Challengers lost two of the matches. Ever since they bowed out of the tournament, Kohli had repeatedly stressed on the need to have fun in whatever games they had remaining. But two wins after 13 matches hardly made that possible.
They had also lost de Villiers, who had flown back to resume national duty when they took the field against Delhi Daredevils. Vishnu Vinod gave them a decent start, adding 30 runs in the opening stand with Chris Gayle, but Royal Challengers were scoring at just about a run a ball on a slow pitch where the ball hardly came on. That is when Kohli walked in and, slowly but steadily, amped up the scoring rate even if he didn't always find the middle of the bat with the ball stopping on him every now and then.
Gayle was a willing partner and showed some of the touch that had been absent for the majority of the team's season. With him, Kohli added 66 for the second wicket in 50 balls. Kohli understood the pace of the surface and pinched the ones and twos, but with timely boundaries, he tried to give Royal Challengers the push they sought. And they came in characteristic Kohli fashion, with muscular whips and powerful wrists. He took a special liking to the arc between deep midwicket and long-on where he collected two fours and two sixes, and was aided by Daredevils' bowlers who bowled to his strength through a combination of short balls and fuller darts on the pads. He crunched his fourth half-century of the season, off 39 balls, and while he perished just when he seemed set to switch gears, his effort propelled Royal Challengers to a reasonable total - one that proved ten runs too many for Daredevils.
The wow moment
His first six. Simply put, it wasn't even supposed to be one. When Corey Anderson was introduced into the attack in the ninth over, he steamed in to Kohli from around the wicket and angled in a scrambled-seam length ball. Kohli's response made for one of the shots of the IPL. Simply striding forward, he presented the full face of the bat. He then chipped it in the air, over mid-off, and followed it up with a lovely extension and follow-through of the bat. So clean were the connection and timing that what was no more than a chip sailed all the way over the boundary. It was as clean a strike as you would see, and made you wonder if he even intended to dispatch it for a six..
Stats that matter
- Kohli's fourth fifty of the season also helped him overtake Kedar Jadhav to top RCB's batting charts for the season. He ended with 308 runs from 10 innings at 30.80 and a strike rate of 122.22.
- Kohli has crunched 149 runs off the 93 balls he has faced from Amit Mishra in the IPL. It is the second-highest for a batsman against a single bowler in IPL history, behind Suresh Raina-Piyush Chawla. On Sunday, he slapped Mishra for 19 off 9 balls. He struck at 211.11 against the legspinner while not managing a strike rate of even 150 against the rest of Daredevils' attack.
What they said
"That six, honestly, I was looking to push it between the two fielders to try and pick up two but I think Corey bowled a cross-seam ball. I'm pretty happy with the way I hit the ball today and more happy that I did it in a winning cause."
Virat Kohli on the six against Corey Anderson
Akshay Gopalakrishnan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo