On a day when there were centurions on either side — a rare feat in T20 cricket —
Virat Kohli’s hundred for Royal Challengers Bangalore overshadowed Heinrich Klaasen’s effort for Sunrisers Hyderabad. Kohli’s 63-ball 100 helped RCB thump SRH by eight wickets in Hyderabad on Thursday and boost their hopes of qualification for the IPL playoffs.
Chasing 187, Faf du Plessis also played a crucial role with a 47-ball 71 as RCB reached the target with four balls to spare. Kohli and du Plessis raised an opening partnership of 172, the highest in this year’s IPL.
RCB’s run chase was off to a flyer with Kohli hitting four boundaries in the opening two overs. Du Plessis, the leading run-getter of the tournament, also got into the act by hitting seamer Kartik Tyagi for three successive fours in the fourth over, capitalising on Glenn Phillips spilling a catch at the deep square-leg boundary.
Du Plessis benefitted from more good fortune as his innings progressed. In the ninth over, a pull off debutant Nitish Kumar Reddy was caught superbly by Mayank Dagar at deep midwicket, but du Plessis was able to carry on as the 19-year-old rookie had exceeded the limit of one bouncer in the over.
Both batters brought up their half-centuries in the 12th over, du Plessis taking 34 balls and Kohli 35 for the landmark. Though there was more than a hint of turn for the SRH spinners, Kohli and du Plessis utilised their skill and experience to come up trumps. The SRH bowlers didn’t help themselves by repeatedly erring in length.
Once it became clear that RCB were headed for victory, Kohli’s sixth IPL ton was the icing on the cake. He brought it up in style with a six over deep midwicket off Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
That SRH were able to reach 186/5 earlier in the evening was down to Klaasen’s 51-ball 104. A beacon of hope in an otherwise below-par batting unit, the 31-year-old has amassed 430 runs in 11 matches at an average of 53.75 and strike rate of 179.16. For context, no other SRH batter has even tallied 300 runs for the season.
In what has been a familiar tale for SRH, they didn’t have the most promising of starts with the bat. Employing their sixth different opening pair this season, Abhishek Sharma and Rahul Tripathi fell in quick succession to RCB off-spinner Michael Bracewell.
Two early wickets didn’t affect Klaasen’s approach though. He began by cutting his very first ball off Bracewell through the gap at cover for four.
When Shahbaz Ahmed was introduced in the sixth over, Klaasen greeted the left-arm spinner with equal disdain. He hit three sumptuous boundaries, the range of shots including a cut, pull and sweep.
Contrary to most South African players, a hallmark of Klaasen’s batting is his decision-making against spin. The length doesn’t have to be all that short for Klaasen to rock back and hit the ball either side of the wicket. And when spinners overcompensate by bowling a fuller length, Klaasen can launch straight down the ground. Successive sixes against Ahmed in the 17th over provided evidence of that.
While Klaasen brought up his century by charging down the track and lofting a full delivery by Harshal Patel over long-on for six, RCB were able to limit the damage towards the end. They conceded just 19 runs off the final three overs.