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Kohli on du Plessis-Maxwell stand: 'One of the best counterattacking partnerships I have seen'

He was also effusive in his praise for Siraj and Harshal, and said Hazlewood's return would turn RCB into "a completely different bowling unit"

On Sunday, Faf du Plessis and Glenn Maxwell put on their third century stand of IPL 2023 to help Royal Challengers Bangalore defeat Rajasthan Royals by seven runs. RCB's stand-in captain Virat Kohli has rated their 127-run stand in this game higher than the 126 they put on against Chennai Super Kings. The reason? Conditions.
"I think this counterattack was even better than [the one in the] Chennai game," Kohli said at the post-match presentation. "Because, the Chennai game, the conditions were brilliant to bat on, but today, I got out first ball, so that pushed us back a little bit; then Shahbaz [Ahmed] tried to get going [but] he got out, and then the pitch wasn't so easy.
"The way Maxi came out and batted was unbelievable. He took the game away from the opposition within a span of four overs. And then Faf followed suit as well, their partnership was just amazing. One of the best counterattacking partnerships I have seen, especially given the conditions.
"I know [in] evening games, we've seen a lot of these [partnerships]. But to bat in those conditions with the ball getting scuffed up and the pitch getting slower, that was the difference in the game eventually."
Du Plessis' dismissal sparked a slump that saw RCB slide from 139 for 2 to an eventual total of 189 for 9, scoring only 33 runs in the last five overs, but Kohli said the third-wicket partnership gave them enough of a cushion to put them at ease.
"We thought, at one stage, 160 might be enough but because of how they batted," Kohli said. "We could get to 190 and be a little more comfortable even though we had to defend under lights, as I said, for the second-half of their innings. So, it was that partnership that completely put us in a commanding position in the game."
The value of those extra runs was further inflated by Mohammed Siraj knocking over Jos Buttler in the first over. Kohli ordained Siraj as the leader of Royal Challengers' attack in the absence of Josh Hazlewood, who is expected to return from injury for their next game, against Kolkata Knight Riders on Wednesday.
"Phenomenal. We know that he [Siraj] has gotten him [Buttler] in the past as well," Kohli said. "He's bowling as well as I've ever seen him bowl. Running in with that new ball, you can see that body language, that intent that he has, any pitch that he's bowling at, any conditions, he believes that he can pick up wickets and he is. He has the Purple Cap and there is a good reason for it. He's leading our attack for now until Josh comes in, hopefully next game, and he's done an absolutely tremendous job and I'm super happy to see him bowl like this."
Despite Siraj's early success and a middle-overs slowdown Royals were in with a chance to win. They even scored 60 runs in the last five overs. But that was not enough, as Harshal Patel stepped up with Royals needing 20 in the final over.
"He's kind of built a reputation but we're playing in Chinnaswamy regularly," Kohli said of Harshal. "We know it's not an easy ground to bowl at, and you have to look at the fact that he has to bowl the tough overs, he doesn't have the new ball in hand, he doesn't have those middle overs to bowl, he always comes in and bowls the tough overs."
"So you're going to get hit at times but he's a guy who is very smart. He understands his game well, and for him to bowl like that and close the game out is a really good thing. He did that against Delhi as well, bowled really well. So, yeah, a couple of games in a row, he's done well, and that augurs well for the team."
Hazlewood's return, Kohli added, would strengthen RCB's attack even further.
"As I said, if Hazlewood is fit and comes back in, then we'll look like a completely different bowling unit with how we're batting as well. I think that's gonna give us a lot of confidence."

Ekanth is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo