Star turn

Royal Challengers Bangalore opener Shane Watson had fallen in the first over and the crowd at the Holkar Stadium in Indore, a home venue for Kings XI Punjab, welcomed the No.3 playing his first game of the season with rousing chants of "AB, AB, AB."

AB de Villiers was slow to get going, but not because he was returning from a back injury. He was fluent from the outset but deprived of the strike as his team-mates plodded along and fell, unable to cope with the pace of the pitch and the accuracy of the Kings XI attack. After six overs, RCB were 23 for 3, their fifth-lowest Powerplay score in the IPL.

By the end of the 15th over, Royal Challengers had scored only 71 - their second-lowest at that stage - and de Villiers had faced only 28 balls. His strike rate, however, was already over a run a ball, a pace no other RCB batsman managed. And then he revved it up to astonishing levels.

The rest of de Villiers' innings was genius. He carted Varun Aaron over mid-off for six, Marcus Stoinis disappeared over deep midwicket, and he ended the 17th over with another six that brought up his fifty. And then he went into overdrive.

Where the other RCB batsmen had allowed the Kings XI bowlers to bowl the lengths they wanted, de Villiers threw them off by moving around the crease, stepping down the track, and expertly piercing the gaps. And he did all that with perfect balance and a still head. On the rare occasion that he was not in the best position to hit the ball, he still managed to reach out for it and launch it over the cover boundary. A couple of other deliveries landed on the roof over the midwicket boundary.

By the time de Villiers was finished, Royal Challengers had more than doubled their 15-over score. Of the 77 runs they scored in the last five overs, de Villiers made 51.

The wow moment

De Villiers favoured the midwicket and square-leg region; one four and six of his nine sixes came in that area. Earlier in the innings, Mandeep Singh had hit the side of the roof; De Villiers put two balls over it.

The first was off Sandeep Sharma, who was slanting the ball across the right-hander. De Villiers walked towards the off side and met the low full toss with a full swing of the bat, sending the ball high into the night sky. And then off the final ball of the innings, de Villiers walked across his stumps to a length ball from Mohit Sharma, got under it, and made the cleanest contact you could hope to see, hitting the ball squarer this time.

The numbers

  • In the 2016 IPL, de Villiers hit a four or a six every three balls on average after the 16th over - striking at 215. Today, he faced 16 balls in the last four overs, and hit seven sixes and a four.

  • De Villiers' strike rate of 219.34 is the highest in the last five overs of the IPL among batsmen to have faced a minimum of 50 balls. He has 1202 runs from 548 balls batting in the last five overs in the IPL.

  • In today's innings, de Villiers scored only 3 off five deliveries from left-arm spinner Axar Patel. He scored 86 off 41 balls against the fast bowlers.

What they said

"He is just so versatile and just so good with his hands. The second-last six he hit was just unbelievable. You have to keep it simple against him and he just played an excellent innings today."
Varun Aaron

"I did surprise myself with a few good shots."
AB de Villiers

Akshay Gopalakrishnan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo