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De Villiers assault stuns Sunrisers

It happened once, in 2012, when AB de Villiers, his South Africa teammate, had taken Dale Steyn apart for 23 runs in a crucial 18th over as Royal Challengers Bangalore had emerged close winners over Deccan Chargers, Steyn’s former franchise. De Villiers on that occasion had said he had “guessed right” on where the South African quick was going to bowl.

That Steyn went for 24 this time, in Sunrisers Hyderabad livery, off the 19th over, at the same venue and by the same batsman couldn’t just have been guesswork. Had it been another two days later, which would have made it exactly two years since that night of May 6, would have made it sound creepy. A crucial four-wicket win, thanks mainly to that penultimate over for the RCB chasing 156, and de Villiers’ stunning assault – 89* off 41 balls -gave them only their third victory of the season.

Steyn’s previous over had cost only three runs, which had meant the RCB needed 37 from their last three. Bhuvneshwar Kumar conceded nine from his final over to give Steyn enough to bowl at. De Villiers had run out of genuine batting partners at the other end, but he was already in the zone, ready to tee off against his compatriot. A slower ball first up was dispatched over square leg, the full and straight follow-up met the sightscreen, before the final ball of the over, and the pick of the eight sixes de Villiers hit on the night came. He guessed correctly once again, shuffled across towards the offside and paddled a yorker into the second tier behind fine leg.

Irfan Pathan gave his best to defend four from the final over but it was too little as de Villiers finished it off with one ball remaining, sparking off jubilant celebrations on a night the RCB had found the going to be difficult when they were reduced to 61 for 4 in the 11th over, after Virat Kohli had decided to chase. They restricted the SRH to 155, below par on a Chinnaswamy belter with small boundaries, but Bhuvneshwar Kumar found appreciable movement either way to remove Parthiv Patel and Kohli in the second over.

The RCB batting line-up is star-studded, and a good day for just one out of Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh or de Villiers would be enough to get them over the line, which hasn’t come too often. Gayle looked the part, but his 19-ball 27 indicated he is far from full fitness, repeatedly declining sharp runs before he chipped Karn Sharma straight to midwicket.

SRH decided to rest an off-colour Amit Mishra but Ishant Sharma, his replacement, proved equally expensive, while Karn, the team’s lone spinner on the day, continued to trouble the RCB batsmen, holding his nerve against left-handers as his other victims were Rilee Rossouw and Yuvraj Singh to finish with 3 for 17. De Villiers, who had walked in at 38 for 3 in the seventh over, played the legspinner cautiously and cashed in on the back-up seamers. Together, Ishant, Irfan and Darren Sammy’s 7.5 overs leaked 85 runs. Steyn would have appreciated a little less.

Earlier, David Warner had waited and waited until the very end, absorbing everything that RCB threw at him. SRH’s inexperience in the middle order has forced Warner to bat at No 4, and his last three innings have indicated how the batsman has had to give up his typically aggressive brand of play to employ a more cautious approach, a plan that fetched him his third fifty in the tournament, and drove the SRH total to 155 for 6 when at one stage it seemed wouldn’t cross 150.

Had it not been for Warner’s 49-ball 61 – bowled by Mitchell Starc off the last over of the innings – SRH were looking at a below-par total, after he and Shikhar Dhawan had revived the innings with a 62-run partnership. Dhawan, the SRH captain, hadn’t been among the runs but showed improvement with 37, and even though it took him 36 balls the innings assumed greater significance in view of the SRH struggle at the top.

Aaron Finch [13, 8b, 1×4, 1×6] was dismissed by an express Starc delivery, 140kph bouncer that took glove and helmet on the way to wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel for 13, before Ashok Dinda removed an in-form Lokesh Rahul in the next over, caught sharply by Gayle at slip. Dhawan and Warner consolidated for long periods, but the string of big overs never came. While Dhawan perished in the 13th over while trying to hit Varun Aaron out of the ground, Darren Sammy fell in a similar bid to Harshal Patel.

Warner’s strike-rate hovered around the 100-mark into the 18th over when he decided to have a go at Dinda, and two sixes off the bowler helped boost the scoring-rate. Sixteen came from the over and nine from the next, but a fine last over from Starc, who finished with figures of 2 for 21, gave away just six – the first three being dots the last of which got Warner – ensured SRH didn’t run away with too many.

Brief scores: Sunrisers Hyderabad 155 for 6 in 20 overs (David Warner 61, Shikhar Dhawan 37, Mitchell Starc 2/21, Varun Aaron 2/33) lost to Royal Challengers Bangalore 158 for 6 in 19.5 overs (AB de Villiers 89*, Chris Gayle 27, Karn Sharma 3/17, Bhuvneshwar Kumar 2/16) by 4 wickets.

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