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SK Flashback: When Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers tore apart Gujarat Lions in IPL 2016

R Viswanath
TOP CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
350   //    Timeless

Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers were at their destructive best on May 14, 2016, against GL
Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers were at their destructive best on May 14, 2016, against GL

May 14, 2016, - You cannot forget this day if you are a big fan of eye-pleasing boundaries and humongous sixes being carted all over the park in a T20 game.

Rewinding your mind-clocks back to 2016 on this very same day gives fresh and fabulous memories of one of the cleanest ball-striking by two of the most fabulous batsmen that the T20 circuit has ever witnessed!

RCB vs GL, Match No.44, Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru

It was the Virat Kohli led-Royal Challengers Bangalore up against an out-of-contention Gujarat Lions in game 44 of IPL 2016, a game that RCB had to win to stand a chance to be in the reckoning for the top four. RCB went go-green that day, an initiative that has won the hearts of one and all in the cricketing arena. Gujarat Lions were wonderful in their debut season under Suresh Raina, who had not missed an IPL game for his franchise till then. But he had to miss the game on May 14 because he was flying to the Netherlands to welcome the little princess of Raina's family, Gracia Raina.

Brendon McCullum was handed over the captaincy reigns in the absence of Raina and he won the toss and wanted to have a bowl first. The Chinnaswamy track was expected to be a belter and with RCB batting first, the crowd desperately wanted magic in the form of a Kohli-ABD onslaught. Not to forget that they had the Universe Boss, Christopher Henry Gayle (now plays for KXIP) at the top of the order as well. That made the RCB top order as powerful and fearful as it can get.

15:55 Local Time and out walked the RCB openers - Virat Kohli and Chris Gayle, with the latter being completely off-colour in that IPL. RCB limped to 10 after the first three overs, thanks to Gayle, who was consuming deliveries upfront as though it was his breakfast. Just when one would have thought Gayle was well set to have a go at the bowling (which he usually does more often than not), Kulkarni cleaned up the big man for just 6, a knock that came off 13 deliveries.

Gayle once again walked back with a single digit score against his name for the nth time that season, but RCB fans were not disappointed, for they knew they will get to see Kohli and ABD together in action, a treat to watch particularly in batting beauties like the one in Chinnaswamy.

RCB were 19/1 after the end of four overs when the two batting giants of RCB joined together in the middle. The very second ball that ABD faced, he went on the backfoot and crunched his lofted drive to perfection, all the way for a maximum off Shivil Kaushik - a shot that showed that he is here to stay for a long time that night.

The beginning of the Kohli-AB show

Tambe was introduced in the next over and De Villiers took a boundary through a gorgeous placement past point and a maximum through fine-leg by shuffling across the crease, a shot that he plays so well. The powerplay was done and dusted with RCB having scored 42, in the process of losing Gayle. The next three overs were real quite as just a couple of boundaries were scored during that period. RCB had not yet stepped up the pedal - with 63 runs on the board at the end of nine, while AB de Villiers had scored 50% of the team's runs till then and Kohli (with his run-a-ball 24) busy watching the South African go about his business.

Gujarat were still in command as far as the scoreboard was concerned - a run-rate of 7 in Chinnaswamy isn't a big deal for bowlers, but still, they had fear in the hearts as ABD was looking in magnificent touch with Kohli playing the perfect second-fiddle for the South African.

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DR Smith came into bowl and 10 came off his over - a quiet one as far as the batting standards of Kohli and ABD are concerned. Jadeja was outstanding in the next over, as he just conceded five and that meant, RCB were just 81/1 after 11 overs were completed, far away from even a par score on that wicket.

Kulkarni came in and was immediately taken apart by Kohli with a six over long-on and that meant, even the Indian captain was off and running. AB de Villiers needed no second invitation as he took advantage of some garbage bowling - a six and a couple of boundaries to get a half-century against his name, a knock that came off just 25 balls and a knock that had started batting out Gujarat out of the contest. 22 came off the Kulkarni over and the visitors knew that the game had started drifting away.

Jadeja continued from the other end, hoping for more magic as far as economy was concerned, but with the form ABD was in, it was only a matter of time before he hit out - an inside out shot over covers for four and a slog sweep against the turn for half-a-dozen coupled with rare singles that made it 12 off the over.

Bravo's fine over meant that RCB were 122/1 after the end of 14 overs - the run-rate never threatening, but two fierce and well-set batsmen who were threatening to take the game away from Gujarat. Tambe was reintroduced as Kohli was happy to milk singles with odd boundaries to get to his fifty, again for the nth time that season. He knew his partner was in supreme touch that evening and only fair that the strike was rotated to give ABD maximum chances for destruction. RCB were going at 9 an over when 15 overs were completed, but more importantly, they had Kohli and ABD putting on a show at the Chinnaswamy, having crossed the 100-run partnership.

The storm that hit Gujarat Lions

Gujarat knew that they had to get both ABD and Kohli in real quick time, to have any chances of a comeback in the contest. Praveen Kumar charged in to bowl the 16th over, just after the time out. De Villiers was on 77 off 37 before the over began and believe it or not, he had raced to his hundred by the end of the over, as he went 0,6,6,4,6,1 to set RCB and Chinnaswamy on fire. The crowd rose together, applauded a truly sensational innings from a fine player. He had killed the contest by then, as everyone knew he was not going to be done today.

Jaddu was in again, and just when the over seemed to a great one for the Lions (only a couple of runs in the first four), there was AB de Villiers, who said to Jadeja and GL, "Don't worry, I will damage even the slightest of happiness that you get!" as he tonked the next two deliveries for expected results, maximums over covers and long-on. 14 off that over and the 150 partnership was up in some style.

The Virat-ABD carnage during the death overs

RCB - 173/1 in 17 overs - with ABD on 112 off 48 and an almost-silent Kohli who had managed 52 runs off 41 balls. RCB were looking good for a score in excess of 210 at that stage, but the storm was yet to fall on Gujarat. If Gujarat had felt that they were already in the receiving end of 'some' carnage, they were absolutely wrong. They had more mental trauma to deal with, in the next three overs, that saw a whole new level of batting by these two.

The death overs-specialist DJ Bravo was on and little did he know that he was about to be taken apart and smashed to all parts by both the tremendously in-form batters out there. Kohli was quick to unfurling a mighty cover drive for four, before taking Bravo the distance, technically with a straighter bat over the same region. A couple and a strike-giving single to ABD followed, and De Villiers had his own answers, a boundary off a no-ball for height and the free-hit getting dispatched all the way over covers, followed by a classical straighter one into the long-on tiers.

Every ball from there on seemed to a free-hit for both these batsmen as 30 came off that Bravo over and the 200 had emerged with still a couple more overs to go, with De Villiers smashing 128 off those and Virat having the best seat to watch the carnage, that of the non-striker's seat, with 65 against his name!

Baz was running out of ideas by then as he waited for something to happen, just some little things going their way so that the damage could be limited, if not stopped. He brought in Kaushik to bowl the penultimate over as Virat Kohli said "Thank you very much!" and took full use of the spinner bowling in the death.

Virat Kohli, who was in awe of ABD from the non-striker's end rose to the party as well, as a hat-trick of sixers followed. If one has to call an over in the game as Virat's, this had to be it, as he went 6,4,6,6,6,2 to make it another 30 run over, and an over that had completely taken away Gujarat from the contest. He had raced to 95 by the end of the over, and ABD knew Virat had to get back the strike for his 100. As expected, he was more than happy to get Kohli back on strike, probably for the first time in the game.

The double-hundred partnership had mounted, as Gujarat were just going through the motions. They already knew the result of the game and allowed the formalities to take place. ABD gave the strike to Kohli off Praveen's over, as Virat raced back for a double in the very next ball, showing how fit he was even during the completion of the innings. A couple of sixes off the next two balls brought up the iconic ton from the RCB skipper as he soaked in the applause from the overwhelmed RCB fans, who had turned up in huge numbers to support their franchise.

The third hundred of the season for the skipper Virat Kohli and the last two balls of the innings brought the so-called respite to Gujarat, as they picked up two wickets including that off Virat Kohli, who walked off to a stunning ovation from the home crowd. RCB had posted 248, a score that was beyond imagination at the end of 14 overs, but Kohli and De Villiers showed on that day, that when these two get going in unison, the word impossible is just another word in the dictionary.

By the time the innings was done, Kohli and AB de Villiers had put on a jaw-dropping 229 runs partnership off just 96 deliveries, as the fans in the stands got far more entertainment than they expected. Two of the glorious batsmen batting together in a batting beauty like Chinnaswamy is always a treat to watch and on May 14, 2016, that is three years down the memory lane, these two were just unstoppable and fantastic to watch.

Gujarat Lions, as expected, were never really in the hunt at any point during their run chase as they were blown away for a paltry 104, with only three batsmen managing double digits. Finch's knock of a run-a-ball 37 took GL past 100 and Jaddu and Baz too managed to get to double figures, in what was otherwise a sorry scorecard. RCB tamed GL, in what was one of the biggest ever wins in IPL History, and it is a memory worth recollecting, even after a hundred years!

AB de Villiers was easily adjudged the Player of the Match for his magnificent and undefeated 129 off just 52 balls, an innings that had boundaries written all over it (10 fours and a dozen sixes). Virat Kohli was equally outstanding on that day, having scored a glorious 109 off 55 deliveries studded with five hits to the fence and eight of them, over it!

This victory also enabled RCB to increase their NRR to a great extent, that enabled them to finish in the top two, eventually. The cricketing fraternity will talk about this innings of two stalwarts of the game, for many more years to come.

May 14, 2016 - A day to be remembered in the history of the IPL, if you are a fan of a boundary galore and only fair that it was orchestrated by two of the outstanding cricketers in Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers!

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