Royal Challengers Bangalore 194 for 2 (de Villiers 73*, Finch 47, Kohli 33*) beat Kolkata Knight Riders 112 for 9 (Gill 34, Morris 2-17, Sundar 2-20) by 82 runs
AB de Villiers scored 73 off 33 balls, at a strike rate of 221.21. Everyone else who batted - a list including Aaron Finch, Virat Kohli, Eoin Morgan, Dinesh Karthik and Andre Russell - combined to score 218 off 208 balls, at a strike rate of 104.81.
This was Sharjah, but not the Sharjah that produced seven 200-plus totals in its first eight innings of IPL 2020. There had been much talk before the tournament of how pitches would tire and slow down in time, and provide increasing assistance to the slower bowlers. That moment has arrived, on the evidence of this game, at least in Sharjah. This wasn't a 194 pitch, but de Villiers' genius enabled Royal Challengers Bangalore to score that much.
On this pitch, it was always going to be a task for the Kolkata Knight Riders to surpass that. Washington Sundar and Yuzvendra Chahal made that task impossible, combining for eight overs of unhittable spin bowling that produced combined figures of 3 for 32. The Royal Challengers romped to an 82-run win, which moved them to ten points from seven games and left them in a three-way tie on top of the IPL leaderboard with the Mumbai Indians and the Delhi Capitals.
Narine out, Banton in
Sunil Narine had been a key figure with the ball in the Knight Riders winning their last two games, against the Chennai Super Kings and Kings XI Punjab. He'd been warned for a suspect action since then, and the Knight Riders - who expressed "surprise" at that development - left him out of their XI. They could have replaced him with a bowler, but they went with a batsman instead, handing Tom Banton an IPL debut. This left the Knight Riders with only one spinner, and the move would have repercussions as the match progressed.
A quick start, a lull
The Royal Challengers chose to bat, and Kohli reckoned at the toss that the pitch would start slow and get slower as the game progressed.
There was no sign of this through the first four overs of the game, in which Finch, who charged the fast bowlers repeatedly, and Devdutt Padikkal hit five fours and a six to move the Royal Challengers to 37 for no loss.
But Pat Cummins and Andre Russell only conceded ten from the last two overs of the powerplay, having sussed out that back-of-a-length, with frequent changes of pace, was the way to go on this pitch. From that point on, the Knight Riders' bowlers took control, with the mystery spin of Varun Chakravarthy and the slower balls of Kamlesh Nagarkoti proving particularly hard to hit. From the start of the fifth over to the end of the 15th, the Royal Challengers only scored 74 off 66 balls, losing the wickets of Finch and Padikkal. By the end of the 15th, Kohli had faced 21 balls without hitting a boundary.
AB delivers, RCB delirious
The Nagarkoti slower ball still seemed to be having an effect when de Villiers swung wildly at one in the 16th over and lost his shape entirely. That ball seemed to flick a switch in de Villiers, though, and he sent the next two balls, slower offcutters just like the previous one, sailing over midwicket and wide long-on, the second soaring beyond the stadium roof.
From there on, it didn't seem to matter what lines or lengths the Knight Riders quicks bowled, or at what pace. With the nimblest of feet and the stillest of heads, de Villiers had the simplest, most elegant solution to every problem thrown at him.
Having scored 10 off his first 11 balls, de Villiers walloped 63 off his next 22. Kohli contributed 22 off 14 balls - with just the one boundary, off his outside edge - to an unbroken third-wicket partnership of 100 off 46 balls.
KKR fall behind the pace
You could have looked at de Villiers' hitting and wondered if the other Royal Challengers batsmen had played too conservatively. Or you could have noted that de Villiers had done what he'd done on a surface where no one else had looked remotely fluent.
Right from the start of the chase, it was clear this would be difficult for the Knight Riders, with the ball not quite coming onto the bats of Gill and Banton. The first four overs brought just 23 runs and the wicket of Banton, who played on for 8 off 12 to complete a forgettable IPL debut, and the most challenging bowlers, on this pitch, hadn't yet bowled a ball.
The fifth over brought 16 runs, Gill ending it with an effortless pulled four and an uppercut six over third man, but if the Knight Riders thought this was a switch in momentum, they were wrong. Both those boundaries came off short balls from Mohammed Siraj that compensated for the lack of pace on this surface. There wouldn't be a single delivery of that sort in the next seven overs.
Sundar and Chahal take over
You know how Washington Sundar will bowl, but that knowledge is not necessarily helpful, especially on a pitch where the ball grips. Quick, into the pitch, short of a sweeping length but not short enough to pull, reaching you at an awkward mid-thigh height and giving you no room.
You know how Yuzvendra Chahal will bowl. To the right-hander, a mix of flatter, quicker balls targeting the stumps and slower, loopier ones dangled wide outside off, making you reach for the ball and lose your shape. To the left-hander, from over the wicket, a mix of legbreaks at the pads, restricting their hitting areas considerably, and wrong'uns angling away from their hitting arcs.
For seven straight overs, these two kept coming at the Knight Riders, and by the end of that passage of play, the game was almost over, with Nitish Rana, Gill, Karthik and Morgan all succumbing to the twin-spin strangle.
Done and dusted
If there was still the smallest sliver of hope left for the Knight Riders even if they required 126 from 48 balls, it was because Russell was at the crease. He nearly holed out off Chris Morris in the 13th over, only for Padikkal to put down a tough chance at long-off, and then hit Isuru Udana for 4, 6, 4 off the first three balls of the 14th.
The Knight Riders only needed one mishit to go to hand, though, and it arrived two balls later, Russell losing shape as he slogged at one slanting away from off stump with the left-arm over angle. Siraj, running back from extra-cover, took a smart catch, and the yelps of his team-mates told the tale. There were 37 balls left in the game, but they wouldn't matter at all.