Royal Challengers Bangalore 158 for 2 (Padikkal 63, Kohli 72*, Archer 1-18) beat Rajasthan Royals 154 for 6 (Lomror 47, Tewatia 24*, Chahal 3-24) by 8 wickets
Not since IPL 2013 have the Royal Challengers Bangalore won three out of their first four matches, but Virat Kohli's side are now at the top of the IPL 2020 points table after an eight-wicket win against Rajasthan Royals. It's a pleasant spot to be in after their travails of seasons past, even though the position is only temporary for now, with the winner of Saturday's second game set to go past them.
The win was built on the back of an excellent bowling performance. Yuzvendra Chahal, perhaps as important a member for Royal Challengers as Kohli and AB de Villiers, was at the heart of the bowling effort with 3 for 24 in his quota, while Devdutt Padikkal added to his growing reputation with a fluid half-century in the chase.
Equally important for Royal Challengers, the below-par total of 154 for 6 that Royals had put up allowed Kohli to ease into his own innings. The cobwebs dusted from his batting, Kohli was striking the ball as well as ever by the time the chase was done. Padikkal's 63 off 45 was the cornerstone, but Kohli also cracked 72* off 53, his first significant score this season. His last 43 runs came off 23 balls.
Royal Challengers were in the ascendancy from early in the game, when the bowlers took out all three of the Royals gun batsmen inside the Powerplay. Steven Smith played on to Isuru Udana, too early into the shot against one of the seamer's myriad slower balls. Jos Buttler jammed his bat into a punch-drive that took the edge to first slip off Navdeep Saini's first ball, and Sanju Samson chipped one back for Chahal to complete a diving caught and bowled. At 31 for 3 in 4.1 overs, Royals were considerably behind, but given the identities of the batsmen dismissed, they were in a deeper hole than most other teams might have been at the same score.
ESPNcricinfo's Smart Stats showed a drastic drop in the expected total, from 170 to 131, while their win probability nosedived from 49.45% to 16.2%. It was a reflection of how much the Royals depend on their top three in the current line-up.
Royals stumble at the start
Smith won the toss in the first day-game of the season, and batting first seemed the right decision given the sapping heat. However, Royals couldn't make the most of that advantage with their top three gone within ten balls of each other. Buttler looked good during his brief stay, but Smith and Samson didn't last long enough for even a brief sparkle.
Samson's dismissal required several replays, with the third umpire trying to determine whether Chahal had got his hands under the ball while diving full-length to his right. The soft signal on the field was 'out', and the third umpire eventually ruled that the images didn't provide enough evidence to overrule the on-field call, which gave Chahal his first wicket.
The Royals sent in Robin Uthappa at No.4, but if the move was intended to give some stability, it didn't quite have the desired effect. Far from his fluent best, Uthappa couldn't get going, and ended with his third score of less than a run a ball in four matches so far this season.
Lomror, Tewatia lead recovery
Royals had gone with Mahipal Lomror for this game ahead of Ankit Rajpoot, bringing in a batsman who could bowl occasional spin for a seam bowler, and Lomror repaid that faith with a robust innings of 47. At the death, the big-hitting pair of Rahul Tewatia and Jofra Archer smashed four sixes between them to push the Royals past 150. But with Tom Curran not getting a bat and Tewatia and Archer facing only 22 balls between them, it left questions about the Royals batting order, and whether they would have been better served by sending in quicker scorers earlier.
Padikkal starts, Kohli finishes
In only his fourth IPL innings, Padikkal powered to his third half-century. He looked at ease from the start of this innings, effortlessly picking up Jaydev Unadkat for six over deep midwicket second ball. He lost Aaron Finch in the third over, lbw to a Shreyas Gopal googly, but Kohli joined him for a match-winning stand. The two would go on to put up 99 runs in 80 balls. Kohli could afford to take his time and play himself in, with the asking rate not too high and Padikkal stroking the ball freely.
Padikkal lost his stumps to Archer - easily the best Royals bowler on show - when he was stepping away to make room, but de Villiers joined Kohli to knock off the remaining runs comfortably.