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Feature

How RCB's bowlers turned it around

Five moves that worked perfectly was Royal Challengers Bangalore in Ahmedabad

Opening with Iqbal Abdulla
Ahmedabad leg of the IPL has come to an end, and the pitches laid out have gone progressively slower. Rajasthan Royals haven't been fans of the surface, but the way they used it against Chennai Super Kings might have given Royal Challengers great tips. Three of Royals' first four overs against Super Kings were spin, and it worked. Royal Challengers did something similar by opening with Abdulla, who conceded just the one run in the second over. Watson likes the ball coming on to the bat, and Abdulla provided him no pace. Three dots into the over, he sent mid-off back to protect a good over, and that man fielded the only shot that went outside the circle.
Yuzvendra Chahal succeeds again
Chahal got Brendon McCullum early in the previous match, and now has Watson's wicket to his name. He has Abdulla to thank for. That over of 1 off 6 balls put pressure on Watson. The loss of Ajinkya Rahane to a Harshal Patel slower ball didn't help matters. Now it might look like Watson had pulled a short ball straight down deep midwicket's throat, and Chahal wouldn't have planned it, but bowling just short of a length with midwicket back is not a bad length for a legspinner bowling to Watson.
Watson is an excellent puller of the ball, which means he is always looking for that ball, as he showed by hitting the first one bowled by Chahal for a six. The pressure of a strike rate of under 100 at the start of the over meant Watson was going to take that risk. The ball that got the wicket, though, was fuller and skiddier, which needed a quick backwards movement to pull it safely. The ball was on to Watson before he was in position, and there was no way he was going to clear the man on the boundary. It was an ill-advised shot, but brought about by tight bowling earlier.
Abdulla and Chahal combine again
With the two big international batsmen, Royals were hoping for the young Indian batsmen to take some quick runs with Steven Smith anchoring the innings. Karun Nair had been run out, but the role of Deepak Hooda and Sanju Samson would have been to take the risks and not let the scoring stagnate. At 82 for 3 after 11 overs, Royals would have fancied to get to 170 with the two youngsters given a free rein, and Smith and James Faulkner to fall back on should things go wrong.
Abdulla and Chahal knew what was coming with Smith not looking to take risks at all. Some spinners when they sense an assault can push balls through, but these two bowled slow loopy deliveries that turned away from the right-hand batsmen and bowled Hooda and Samson in back-to-back overs.
Starc finishes beautifully
In the first game in Ahmedabad, Royals had troubled Mumbai Indians similarly, but then saw Kieron Pollard and Corey Anderson score 103 in the last seven overs. At 100 for 5 after 15 overs, Royals would have hoped for at least 50 more, which could give them a competitive total on a sluggish surface. Except that they had to contend with the best death bowler going around. Virat Kohli, like Starc's Australia ODI captains, kept back two of his overs for the crunch situation. When Starc came on to bowl overs 18 and 20, Royals still had Smith, Stuart Binny and Faulkner, but Starc managed late swing and bowled full lengths to put paid to any plans of a late assault. His second spell of 2-0-6-2 - the second time in his second match that he has bowled the 20th over for three runs and a wicket - made sure the target for Royal Challengers was not tricky.
Best batsmen at the top
Possibly it was the small target, possibly it was always a plan, but Royal Challengers finally allowed their best batsmen a chance to play the most number of deliveries. They might tamper the approach a little in the following games, and keep one of their three big batsmen for No. 4, but there is no way they should be sending AB de Villiers in when the asking rate has reached 15. They should want their best batsmen to take charge of the game, which is what they did here and secured a net-run-rate boost with a win with 23 balls to spare.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo