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Match Analysis

Kohli and du Plessis' slowdown against spin proves costly for RCB

Royal Challengers scored only 61 runs in the overs between 7 and 14; Super Giants amassed 117 in the same phase

Ashish Pant
11-Apr-2023
Seldom does a team conceding 212 in a T20 game go into the break between innings thinking they have done all right. However, on Monday night at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, where 200-plus totals have been scored 24 times in the IPL, the feeling was that Royal Challengers Bangalore had left a few runs out in the middle.
The feeling became even stronger when Marcus Stoinis, first, and Nicholas Pooran took down the Royal Challengers bowlers, despite Lucknow Super Giants having started poorly in their big chase.
When Stoinis walked out, Super Giants were 23 for 3 after four overs. At the same stage in their innings, Royal Challengers were 33 for no loss, with Virat Kohli scoring quickly, though Faf du Plessis was struggling.
The foundation was set, but Royal Challengers managed only 61 runs in eight overs after the powerplay, with Kohli and du Plessis slowing down against spinners Krunal Pandya, Ravi Bishnoi, and Amit Mishra.
In contrast, Super Giants hit 117 in the same phase - the second-highest in the league's history.
During that phase in the chase, Stoinis bludgeoned a 30-ball 65, and when Pooran arrived at the crease in the 11th over, Super Giants were ahead of where Royal Challengers were at the stage, despite losing four extra wickets. His 19-ball 62 didn't quite finish the game, but it was 24 needed in three overs with four wickets in hand then.
It generally comes down to small margins in T20 cricket. Where Royal Challengers slowed down against spin, Super Giants took Karn Sharma and Shahbaz Ahmed for 65 runs in four overs. Royal Challengers, on the other hand, scored 93 in ten overs of spin.
It might not have had to do with intent, or a milestone in the case of Kohli, who took ten balls to go from 42 to 50. When he did, off 35 balls, du Plessis was on a run-a-ball 18. Momentum shift? Yes, but the surface did seem to hold up a touch for the spinners in the first innings, and got better to bat on progressively, which made stroke-making easier.
"When we were batting, it was quite slow between overs seven to 14; a little bit dry," du Plessis said at the post-match presentation. "Then as the innings went in the last five overs, I think maybe there was a bit more moisture and the ball started skidding better, and that was the case right through the second innings. Really nice to bat on, really nice for good cricket shots."
Pooran agreed, at least as far as the second half was concerned. "The wicket was really nice to bat [on]," he said. "It was about cashing in, getting in the right positions and executing."
The numbers against fast bowling were quite different. Kohli hit 33 in 19 balls against them, striking at 173.68. Against spinners, he scored at 112. Du Plessis scored 37 off 20 balls against the quicks at 185, which dropped to 161.53 against spin. Among the top three Royal Challengers batters, only Glenn Maxwell went quicker against spin than pace. In comparison, Stoinis scored at 283.33 against spin (34 off 12) and Pooran at 380 (19 off five).
And this, that the top few Royal Challengers batters would go at the quicks more than at the spinners, wasn't a surprise to the Super Giants players.
"We always knew that they would target the powerplay hard and would slow down after the powerplay," Pooran said after the game. "That was the discussion we had. But that's how they play their cricket, they obviously try to set up the game and try to go for a strong finish."
Which they did, but "Bishnoi and Krunal bowled extremely well after the first few overs and probably kept us back after an electric powerplay", as Maxwell admitted.
Apart from his batters' struggles against spin, the ineffectiveness of his own spinners is also a cause of worry for du Plessis. Wanindu Hasaranga is expected to join the squad soon, and that should provide some relief. But with four of their next five games to be played in Bengaluru, Royal Challengers will have to devise a plan to contain the opposition. And score more. Because, as Stoinis pointed out, at the Chinnaswamy, "history suggests that 200 is pretty much par a lot of the time".

Ashish Pant is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo