Sharjah: It was not for nothing that Virat Kohli, the Royals Challengers Bangalore skipper, insisted on having Yuvraj Singh in their dugout for the IPL VII.
The current poster boy and the erstwhile star of Indian cricket rocked at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Thursday to guide their team to an eight-wicket victory over Delhi Daredevils in the second match of the season.
Chasing a modest target of 146 to win, Singh joined his skipper at the fall of Parthiv Patel’s wicket — the pint-sized stumper contributing a quick-fire 37 off 28 balls.
The two then unleashed a flurry of sixes all around the park to win the game for their team with 20 balls to spare.
Earlier, the team line-ups threw up a huge surprise as Chris Gayle, the talismanic figure of RCB, was missing from the squad with a back problem and Australian Nick Maddinson was handed his IPL debut.
This was a massive disappointment for the capacity crowd, as they missed out on two of the marquee names of the tournament: the West Indian and injured Delhi batsman Kevin Pietersen.
Subjected to much derision for his failure to accelerate the run-rate during the World T20 final in Dhaka earlier this month, Singh was in a murderous mood as he scored an unbeaten 52 (29 balls, 3 fours, 5 sixes) with Kohli keeping him company on 49 (38 balls, 2 fours, three sixes). Both were extremely harsh on the two spinners, Rahul Sharma and Shahbaz Nadeem, with Sharma being clobbered for three sixes in one particular over.
Kohli, the man in form, had a sedate start until he was dropped by Nick Neesham at fine leg off Wayne Parnell on 24. He took umbrage at that, stepping out to Parnell for his first six over mid-off.
Earlier, it was left to South Africa’s J.P. Duminy, an old hand at the IPL, and former New Zealand skipper Ross Taylor to repair the damage after the Delhi side were left reeling at 35 for four at one stage. The RCB new-ball attack acquitted itself well with Mitchell Starc, Albie Morkel and Varun Aaron claiming a wicket each, before young spinner Yuzvendra Singh Chahal came up with a beauty to dismiss Murali Vijay.
Walking in at a precarious situation, Duminy looked positive right from the start and found adequate support from Taylor to put together an unbroken 110-run partnership and take Delhi to a competitive total of 145 for four. Duminy was unbeaten on 67, during the course of which he completed 1,000 runs in the tournament, while Taylor finished on 43.
Soon after RCB skipper Virat Kohli had won the toss and decided to have a bowl, his decision proved correct as Daredevils kept on losing wickets at regular intervals.
Starc struck in the third over when opener Mayank Agarwal tried a pull at him, only to mistime it as Kohli accepted it gleefully the catch at short midwicket.
Skipper Dinesh Karthik, to whom the team management handed the crucial No. 3 position that Pietersen normally occupies, failed to justify the tag of one of the most expensive players in this year’s auction. The wicketkeeper-batsman nudged at an express delivery from Morkel, which moved away and was snapped up behind the wicket by Parthiv Patel.
A full scorecard is here.