Yesterday was AB de Villier’s first outing in the IPL 2017. You might have forgiven him for being a little rusty, and he even admitted to calling his wife in the morning to express doubt about his game. It’s fair to say that those fears were categorically put to rest after a sensational 89 from 46 balls. It was a beautifully paced innings, he accumulated early on as wickets fell at the other end, and then unleashed havoc from the 16th over onwards. It appears to be a tactic that he uses to good effect, in last years IPL he hit every third ball for a boundary after the 16th over (stat courtesy of the cricinfo.com commentary team). You had to feel for some of the Kings XI bowlers from that point on, as AB hit some scarcely believable shots, smashing 8 sixes in that period, 2 of which went out of the ground.
AB is the sort of guy you would hate at school – he excelled at just about every sport, and perhaps could have played professional rugby, tennis, hockey or golf. When you watch him bat it’s easy to see that he honed these multiple skills to become the wonderful batsman he is. The swing to launch Stoinis over cow corner was so elegant that Sergio Garcia would’ve been proud of it. The ridiculous shot he played over deep extra cover in the final over was reminiscent of a hockey slap shot. This was an absolute masterclass that showcased his freakish talents and it was worthy of winning the match.
Unfortunately, that was not to be, and Amla and Maxwell played beautifully themselves to knock off the 149 they needed as early as the 15th over! They were both the beneficiaries of some good fortune, as they each offered up catches that should’ve been taken.
That being said, they proved this was a batsmen’s pitch, highlighting what an impressive bowling display the Kings XI put in to restrict RCB to 148. The bowling up front, particularly from Axar Patel (1 for 12 off 4 overs) and the skiddy Varun Aaron (2 for 21 off 4 overs), was of a very high standard. Indeed, the left-arm Patel was rewarded with the man of the match award. They were backed up with some good fielding, above all the excellent wicketkeeper Saha, who took a fine catch.
As good as the bowling was, I couldn’t help but think RCB’s batting (AB apart) was very ordinary. Even when wickets have fallen early, T20 batsmen need to look to knock the ball into gaps for one’s and two’s, something AB does well himself early on. In fairness to Binny, he hit a lovely 6 and 4 in the 18th over, but he faced far too many dot balls (9 of his 20 were dots). He wasn’t the only one, with Vishnu Vinod (7 dots from 12 balls) and Mandeep Singh (13 dots from 34 balls) both struggling to get the ball away to keep the scorecard ticking (and perhaps return the strike to AB)!
It seems a bit peculiar talking about the AB show when RCB were given a royal thrashing (pun very much intended), but it was that type of special innings that had everyone watching in awe. The RCB fans will be disappointed but with AB in terrific form and Virat Kohli not too far from a comeback, surely things could be looking up rather soon.