Royal Challengers Bangalore ended their IPL 2020 season with a six-wicket loss in the Eliminator against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Friday. It was a campaign that began promisingly but fizzled out towards the end. The Royal Challengers had won seven of their first ten games, but then lost five in a row. They batted first in each of those five games, but crossed 160 only once, a fact that captain Virat Kohli put down nerves in the batting group.
"Maybe a bit of nerves, a bit of hesitation," Kohli told host broadcaster Star Sports after the Eliminator. "As I said, we need to be more expressive with the bat. We didn't probably have any phases in the game where we got away from the opposition. We just allowed bowlers to bowl in the areas they wanted to and didn't put them under enough pressure I believe. If you look at our last three-four games, we've hit a lot of fielders as well. A lot of good shots going to the fielders. It's been a strange kind of phase of four-five games for us. Tonight, just didn't have enough on the board."
The Royal Challengers made 131 for 7 after being asked to bat by the Sunrisers on a slow pitch with turn. The expected dew didn't set in until late in Abu Dhabi, which brought the Royal Challengers' spinners into greater play, but the Sunrisers got the win with two balls to spare, Kane Williamson (50*) and Jason Holder (24*) guiding the chase. The one opportunity they had to dismiss Williamson was a difficult one, when Devdutt Padikkal at the deep square leg boundary parried the ball back into play in the 18th over before stepping over the rope, but couldn't come back inside in time to catch it.
"I don't think we had enough on the board," Kohli said. "We made one hell of a game out of it in the second half, and the position we got ourselves into in the second half - probably with a better execution… it's a game of margins and if Kane is taken there it's a different game altogether. But they put us under a lot of pressure in the first innings. A few soft dismissals, a few fortunate ones for them as well."
Head coach Simon Katich felt that the batting 'ran out of steam' after the strong start.
"We felt like we were on track at the 10-games mark, and then heading into the last four games… looking back on it now, it feels like we probably ran out of a bit steam," Katich said at the post-match press conference. "Particularly with the bat. That's probably the one area that faded a bit after a really good start to the tournament. Credit to the Sunrisers today, I thought they squeezed us beautifully. They took early wickets and then we were always under pressure trying to play catch up. We always felt if we can get 150 on the board we would be in the game, particularly with the two leggies (Yuzvendra Chahal and Adam Zampa) in the team and seeing the wicket. It was slow and offering a little bit of turn. To stack our batting today and only get 130 was disappointing. Sunrisers thoroughly deserved to go through."
The Royal Challengers maintained a stable opening combination for most of the tournament, starting with Aaron Finch and Padikkal at the top and then replacing an out of form Finch with Josh Philippe, but for the Eliminator, it was Kohli who came out to open with Padikkal.
"Yeah look it was settled," Katich said of the opening combination. "Aaron Finch didn't get dropped till the 11th game. In terms of a settled combination, we did that for the first ten games. Unfortunately, Finchy didn't make as many runs as he would have liked. We made the change, Josh Philippe came in, got an opportunity. But when it came to the playoffs, we made a decision that Virat was going to open today. Unfortunately it didn't work, but realistically, we didn't chop and change too much compared to the past. It was pretty consistent for the bulk of the tournament. Just ended up being a forced change due to form."
While acknowledging disappointment at not progressing further in the tournament, Katich stressed that it was far from doom and gloom for the Royal Challengers.
"While we fell away to the back end of the tournament, I think throughout, we felt like we made some strides on the previous couple of years," he said. "Plenty of positives in the tournament, certainly not all doom and gloom. We've got to make sure that we've learned from this experience. Tonight's a great lesson for our younger guys, to experience the pressure cooker of the playoffs. Obviously didn't go to plan tonight, hopefully that lesson and experience will hold them in good stead in years to come."
Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo