One of the most awaited clashes of IPL 2019 was witnessed today at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru, as Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians squared off in pursuit of their first win of the tournament.
Despite the Indian captain and vice-captain, the World No. 1 and No. 2 batsmen respectively, being the captains of the two sides, the brouhaha surrounding this encounter was due to an entirely different reason: the face-off between the world's best batsman Virat Kohli and the world's best bowler Jasprit Bumrah.
Over the years the IPL has built a platform for the world's best to play with and against each other. The league has also made it possible for compatriots to weigh their chances against each other, giving the fans considerable joy.
The face-offs between MS Dhoni and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn, have been some of the defining clashes of the league for cricket fanatics across the globe to cherish.
The monotonous consistency of Kohli in all formats of the game, and the meteoric rise of Bumrah in the international arena in the past 15 months, made it fairly obvious that the encounter between the two would be the clash of the season. The jocular commercials involving the two, with Bumrah addressing Kohli as 'Cheeku Bhaiya', added more spice to the already hyped face-off.
All the conjectures and speculations came to an end when the two met each other on the 22-yards strip, this time being in opposite camps. Determined to open the account of his team and improve the home side's record against the three-time champions, Kohli made a convincing start, opening his account by hammering the speedster for three consecutive boundaries.
The Indian captain looked in menacing form, hitting boundaries at will. Along with ABD, Kohli was all set to do what he is best at - play the anchor's role in a big run chase.
10 overs after arriving at the crease, the Run Machine completed his 5,000 IPL runs, once again off the bowling of Bumrah.
With 73 needed off 40, Kohli and ABD seemed to be playing the game at their own pace. RCB were cruising towards victory, until their cruise was dismantled by a storm named Jasprit Bumrah.
Called in by Rohit Sharma in search of a breakthrough, Bumrah turned out to be the golden arm for his skipper, claiming the priced scalp of Kohli off a precisely targeted short delivery. Half of the battle was won, but a lot was still left to be executed.
The dismissal certainly brought the match back in the balance, but the presence of De Villiers never allowed MI to heave a sigh of relief. The former Proteas batsman kept firing, taking the game right down to the wire.
However, just four days after producing an underwhelming show against the Delhi Capitals, Bumrah came back with some other plans up his sleeve, totally arresting the scoring rate at the death. He gave away just 6 runs in his last two overs, and picked up two crucial wickets of Colin de Grandhomme and Shimron Hetmyer.
Bumrah's heroics kept the pressure mounting on the home side. And despite the heroics of ABD, RCB failed to get across the line, conceding the match by 6 runs to the visitors.
On a day when two of RCB's best batsmen etched their names in the record books (Kohli and ABD completing 5,000 and 4,000 runs respectively in the league), their team was denied a victory at their own turf by the sheer excellence of Bumrah.
Keeping the controversy aside (which actually gets nullified considering the wrongly called wide in Bumrah's last over), the death overs were all about the gutsy control and sheer determination of the 25-year old. The speedster enabled his side register their 8th victory in 10 games played between the two sides at the venue, thus reaffirming his stature as the world's best death bowler.
Bumrah terrorized the home side and claimed the Man of the Match award for his figures of 3/20, thus winning Round 1 of the battle. It would be interesting to see whether Kohli aka Cheeku Bhaiya turns up with some different plans when the duo clash again at the Wankhede on the 15th day of the next month.
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