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Match Analysis

How du Plessis-Kohli masterclass revived RCB after rain break

With the ball turning square, the RCB openers brought their experience into play to provide a platform for others to launch

Ashish Pant
Faf du Plessis' reaction to the fourth ball he faced after the 40-minute rain break on Saturday evening told a story. On seeing the Royal Challengers Bengaluru captain make room for himself, Maheesh Theekshana pulled his length back keeping the line outside off. Du Plessis, who was a few steps outside leg stump, went for an across-the-line mow, only to see the ball spitting and bouncing sharply and crashing into his midriff.
He looked towards his batting partner Virat Kohli in shock, his lips pushed up and out, signalling with his right hand how much the ball bounced. Even Theekshana was surprised. It was a sign of things to come.
After Chennai Super Kings opted to bowl on what looked like a dry surface bereft of much grass, the RCB openers smashed two fours and three sixes in the first three overs. A typical Chinnaswamy surface is what most assumed. Then came a sudden downpour, which meant some water seeped into the pitch before the covers were brought on. And the moisture on the surface seemed to help the spinners get the ball to grip and turn and bounce. As if someone had transported the Chepauk surface to Bengaluru in that 40-minute break.
In the next over, the fifth of the game, Mitchell Santner conceded two singles getting the ball to turn square before Theekshana ended the powerplay with a five-run over. Having scored 31 runs in the first three overs, Kohli and du Plessis managed just 11 in the next three as RCB finished on 42 for 0 after six overs, their joint-lowest powerplay score of the season.
"I thought batting first, that was the hardest pitch I've ever played on in T20 cricket," du Plessis said after the game. "After that rain, it just made it wet. Myself and Virat were talking about a score of 140-150, it felt that hard in the beginning.
"At that stage, the communication to the umpires was that there was a lot of rain falling on the pitch and you don't want that moisture. So from their [CSK's] side, they probably wanted to push the game as well, which makes sense, but when we came back, my goodness, it was tough. It felt like a day-five Test match in Ranchi. I've never played on something like that."
The frustration was apparent. With RCB needing to win the match by 18 runs to make it to the playoffs, having to face Santner, Theekshana and Ravindra Jadeja on a turning track was the last thing Kohli and du Plessis would have expected. But this is where the two brought their experience into play.
Even as run-scoring became tough, neither batter lost patience and threw away his wicket. A new batter coming in with the surface spinning like a top could have led to a collapse. They looked to rotate the strike and attacked only when the ball was in their arc like the two slog sweeps Kohli nailed against Jadeja and Santner in consecutive overs. By the time Kohli fell in the tenth over to Santner, not only had they seen off the tricky phase, but also faced close to seven overs of spin.
At 78 for 1 after ten overs, and with the pitch easing out a touch, du Plessis knew it was go-time. On 30 off 29 at this point, he targeted Jadeja taking him for a four and two back-to-back sixes. The run rate jumped from 7.80 to 8.90 in the span of an over, and RCB were back on track.
Du Plessis reached his fifty off 35 balls and while he fell soon, the platform was set for Cameron Green and Rajat Patidar to launch. "It was pretty crazy out there [the turn after the rain]," Green said during the innings break. "I think Faf and Virat batted beautifully. They assessed the conditions really well, gave us a platform to explode from."
And explode the duo did. Simarjeet Singh, CSK's best bowler from their previous game against Rajasthan Royals, was smashed for a four and six by Patidar, an over which went for 19 runs. Patidar then walloped Tushar Deshpande for two sixes while Green went back-to-back against Shardul Thakur. The two got together at the end of the 13th over and by the time they split, they had put on 71 runs off just 28 balls.
At the end of the 16th over, ESPNcricinfo's forecaster predicted RCB finishing on 202, but the Green-Patidar assault meant RCB managed 16 runs more, a score which looked improbable when Kohli and du Plessis were battling against spin early on. RCB hammered 80 runs in the last five overs to finish on 218 which was enough not just to beat CSK by 27 runs but also to ensure that RCB's resurgent run of six wins on the bounce ended with a place in the top four, something which felt next to impossible just a few weeks back.

Ashish Pant is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo