Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
Twenty20 cricket creates a bit of a time warp, one that is felt most acutely during one-sided passages of play. One team feels like it takes an eternity for the promised relief. "It'll all be over in a few hours. Just hang in there." On this night, that was Sunrisers Hyderabad.
The other team experiences everything in fast-forward, and they loathe for it to come to end. "Gee, this is too much fun. Do we have to stop?" That was Royal Challengers Banga... wait, actually it was just two men: Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers.
Their 157-run partnership felt like the reunion of old college buddies. Chris Gayle's wicket was a prank - bowled down leg, one that normally speeds away to the fine leg boundary instead moved in off his thigh pad to hit leg stump - and it was tempting to think Kohli and de Villiers were behind it. The events of the next 87 balls certainly made it seem like they wanted as much time together as possible. Those poor bowlers.
With the number of overs and the amount of time they need to spend on the field slashed down like cricket was having a clearance sale, you'd think the pressure on them would reduce too. The problem arises when the batsmen figure out there are 10 of them to handle a measly 20 overs.
It is said that you need to relinquish fear to succeed in T20s. But where is the need for such a thing in the first place when you have Kohli, de Villiers, Gayle and Shane Watson?
Royal Challengers have four bonafide match-winners in their side and they line up as No. 1, 2, 3 and 4. Each of them can bat 20 overs by themselves, and each of them knows that. So there is absolutely no need to hold back. The slogging can start early on flat pitches, exactly the kind their home ground plies them with. It can wait a bit longer on tough pitches, which they will no doubt encounter as the IPL goes on.
Tonight, Kohli and de Villiers decided it was go-time in the ninth over. For every over through the end of the innings - barring the ones that fetched the wickets of those two batsmen, the 16th and 18th - yielded double-digit runs. Royal Challengers' 227 for 4 may be the eighth highest total in IPL history, but it seemed inevitable and it could have been a lot more because Sunrisers failed to recognise moments capable of turning the game.
Mustafizur Rahman was their best bowler. He had only nine deliveries at Kohli, three at de Villiers, in the first 17 overs. The first 12 balls were during the Powerplay, when the partnership that would grow to become the second-highest at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in T20s was in its infancy. By the time he returned to bowl in the 18th, Royal Challengers were 183 for 2. At the end of that over, they were 186 for 4.
Those six balls were more proof that this 20-year old Bangladeshi fast bowler revels in a big game situation. It was his IPL debut, but Mustafizur overruled his captain David Warner and brought mid-off up. Out came the cutter, and de Villiers, batting on 82, was duped. He got rid of Shane Watson too and was on a hat-trick. Once again he set his own field.
Would things have panned out differently had Mustafizur bowled more - or even all - of his overs earlier? Should Sunrisers have followed Royal Challengers and used their best man to set the game up rather than save him for damage control? The answer to that might never be found, and it might not necessarily be a mistake either.
Quieting a long batting line-up which loved the short boundaries at the Chinnsawamy is hard enough with all your resources, but Sunrisers were a specialist bowler short for nearly half the overs after Ashish Nehra walked off the field with a groin injury one ball into the 11th. It is one thing to have the world's best at your disposal - like Royal Challengers do - and giving them maximum exposure, and quite another to ration your resources even as they run out. Nehra was one of the best quicks in the World T20 and without him Sunrisers had to scramble.
"It really hurt when a bowler goes down. I really had to reassess and when two batsmen are going it's quite hard to stop here especially," Warner said. "The disappointing thing for me is that we started well - the first three overs went for 12 - and then a bowler went down and if we look at the last four overs, they got 63 runs and one of those overs went for I think three or four runs."
Ashish Reddy, who Sunrisers have turned to before and had success with, struggled to find the blockhole. His overpitching cost 25 runs in 11 balls. The legspinner Karn Sharma forgot his job description. Very few of his deliveries actually turned, very few were even tossed up. His four overs went for 57 runs.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar kept going for the yorker even when Sarfaraz Khan had the perfect counter. A scoop over short fine leg for four followed by a reverse paddle over short third man for six. By now the bowler should have tried something different. If not as he ran in to bowl, then at least when he saw the batsman blatantly getting into position for another scoop shot.
Bhuvneshwar did not pull the pace back, he did not slant it wide of Sarfaraz's reach and he did not shorten his length. Another yorker-turned-full toss arrived and was promptly dispatched. Sunrisers lost by 45 runs, this over gave Royal Challengers 27 of them.
"If we look back at it," Warner said "We probably should have changed the pace a little bit, not bowled the same ball two balls in a row, but that's my fault as well. I should be speaking to the bowlers a bit more and making sure that they're thinking about that."
Warner was terrific in the chase; his 58 off 25 balls provided the perfect start but he fell in the ninth over. Royal Challengers would have thought this was it. Their bowling looks a bit thin, and it might need to be masked by their outrageously strong batting line-up. It certainly was tonight, but there was still one last chance for Sunrisers. Eoin Morgan. He may be coming off a poor World T20 as a batsman, but in this Sunrisers XI, he was their best bet after Warner.
Morgan came in at No. 6 - below Naman Ojha and Deepak Hooda - and faced only 18 balls for an unbeaten 22.
"It was more about keeping Morgs after 10 overs," Warner explained. "I think the plan was to have Hooda go out there and try and get things going a little bit and we know how well Morgs finishes and for us that was what we needed today. We needed him to finish, as I said, if two batsmen had got going, we could have got very close."
But the words that rang stronger on that issue came from Watson. "Once we got Dave out, we knew we had a better chance to squeeze the Sunrisers team. And especially with Eoin Morgan coming in a little bit later, it meant that their real firepower and their class firepower was left quite late which worked into our hands, obviously."
AB de Villiers
Royal Challengers Bangalore
RCB vs Sunrisers