Royal Challengers Bangalore v Kolkata Knight Riders, IPL, Durban April 29, 2009

Bangalore win but can't hide the flaws

Karna S
Bangalore may see this win as a turning point - it lifted them off the bottom of the table - but the result can't paper over the obvious flaws in the way they play

The game ended in the last over but it didn't have to come to that. The target wasn't huge but Bangalore stumbled after a good start and the match hurtled towards a somewhat artificially created close finish. Bangalore may see this win as a turning point - it lifted them off the bottom of the table - but the result can't paper over the obvious flaws in the way they play.

The team, it seems, is aware of those flaws - coach Ray Jennings had, on Tuesday, spoken to Cricinfo at length about some of the problems that were on view today.

Most important, perhaps, and what almost cost them this match, is the batsmen's shot selection. They needed 75 off 60 - with all wickets intact - when things went awry. The plan must have been for young Shreevats Goswami to go after the bowling while Jacques Kallis stayed till the end. Goswami, who'd done a fine job despite struggling with Ishant Sharma's bounce, fell to a slog sweep and Kallis the next over fell to a mistimed pull.

Kevin Pietersen and Virat Kohli tried to steady the chase and when Kohli hit Brad Hodge for a six, they needed a very gettable 34 off 27. Kohli then did what his coach despairs about: he tried a cute dab to third man but ended up edging it behind. In so doing, he underlined Jennings' opinion of him. "Kohli sometimes thinks he is better than the game," Jennings had said. "He is a very talented kid but needs to understand he has to put in performances on the field."

Bangalore still had their skipper, Pietersen, in the middle. It was his chance to finish the tournament on a high before leaving for England. He'd done the hard stuff: earned his teammates' trust, taken them out for dinner meetings and even learned a smattering of Hindi. And, earlier today, even taken a wicket off the first ball of the match. Everything but scoring runs. His dismissals have usually been tame and, worse, robbed his team of momentum. Today, the pressure told on him. A gently flighted delivery from Hodge, Pietersen tried a chip stroke but could only push it weakly to long-on.

At that stage they needed 33 from 24 and had six wickets in hand, but Bangalore weren't done. After a brief period of stability, Roelof Van der Merwe went for a wild slog but edged it to the keeper (debutant Morne van Wyk's fourth catch of the innings, which itself tells a tale). It was left to Mark Boucher to hold his nerve and steer them through with a ball to spare.

The batting - especially of Pietersen and Kallis - seemed to confirm Jennings' theory. "Our international cricketers are letting the team down. They have not produced the goods. To me they should be our leaders in runs and wickets. But here we have a situation where Dravid has been streets ahead of them all. He will be back with us in a few days so I looking forward to having him in the side again."

If this win does mark a turning point for Bangalore, it will be a reward for the effort they have put in, something that has pleased their famously tough coach. On Tuesday they had two practice games, morning and afternoon. They've cut down on the partying.

The final word, though, to Kolkata Knight Riders, the new occupants of the foot of the table. At the end of the game, a distraught captain Brendon McCullum was frank in his assessment of his team - nothing was going right for the team, he said. However, he did show he had his wits about him. As the press conference ended, someone handed him an envelope; he peered into it, saying, "Any ideas in there for us?"

He can take a leaf out of Jennings' book. There are ideas and theories galore there.

Karna S is a freelance cricket writer