It was nearly a month ago that Sandeep Sharma had last bowled to the Royal Challengers Bangalore. On that occasion, neither Virat Kohli nor Chris Gayle were in the top order. He bowled 14 dot balls in his three-over opening spell. When he returned to bowl the 19th, AB de Villiers smoked him for 16 runs off three balls.
Tonight, de Villiers looked to do the same. A four, a misguided slog, and a six marked the start of Sandeep's third over. But the difference tonight was that de Villiers was infringing upon Sandeep's property - the Powerplay.
Sandeep had already removed Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli with full deliveries swinging the same way - in to wreck Kohli's stumps, out to take Gayle's leading edge. He'd only bowled the outswinger once, to beat Punjab team-mate Mandeep Singh's outside edge. In many ways, it was par from Sandeep. His prodigious inswinger has always been stock, with the one that straightens used as a suckerpunch.
Perhaps de Villiers wasn't aware of that. He gave Sandeep the charge and got perfectly leg side of the ball, only to find that it moved away from him at the last moment. Without the deviation, that ball would've blazed over the off-side infield. Wriddhiman Saha held on and Royal Challengers had lost Gayle, Kohli and de Villiers inside the Powerplay.
Sandeep became the only bowler in history to have all of them in the same match.
The wow moment
Every match at the Chinnaswamy Stadium this season has been flavoured with the expectation from the home support - whether through blind fandom or simply by the odds of world-class players finally, surely clicking. Tonight, the expectation was for Gayle to finally, surely, click. There hadn't been a more one-sided contest in the IPL than Gayle v Kings XI.
For the first time in a long time, Gayle looked to attack off the second ball he faced. In the process, he only became a target moving at Sandeep's swing rather than other way round. The leading edge flew to backward point in the ultimate anti-climax; Chinnaswamy had expected this target to be chased down in 15 overs.
Stats that matter
Sandeep has not dismissed any other batsman as many times he dismissed Virat Kohli in the IPL - five times
Sandeep has taken nine wickets in the Powerplay this season, the most by a bowler. He also has the second-best economy rate in the Powerplay (min 100 balls bowled). He bowled 15 dot balls tonight in his four-over spell
What they said
"It's making me feel great, it's like a dream come true to get those three wickets upfront. I'm very happy. "
"Sandeep has been outstanding, to get those three (Gayle, Kohli, AB) players out in a whole season is a great effort, let alone in one game."