Virat Kohli returned to great form with a great half-century after surviving the IPL play-off race by defeating Royal Challengers Bangalore by eight wickets at the table top Gujarat Titans on Thursday.
Captain Hardik Pandya made 62 off 47 balls and decided to bat after taking GT to a competitive 168 for five.
Kohli (73 off 54 balls) and skipper Fa du Plessis (44 off 38 balls) shared the opening stand of the match-winning 115 before Glenn Maxwell (40 not out off 18 balls) was ballistic as the team returned home in 18.4 overs.
With the win, RCB moved up to fourth position with 16 points but will have to wait for the Delhi Capitals-Mumbai Indians game on Saturday to know their fate. RCB will ensure play-off berth if they lose to Delhi.
At the suggestion of the ‘Kohli Kohli’ slogan, the whole of Wankhede and perhaps the country wanted to see the former Indian captain back in the run and with some luck he came back to play the shots he was known for.
When Kohi picked up Mohammad Shami for the bowler’s head and two high boundaries above the cover in the third over, it looked like it would be his night. His next four were a streak off Hardik’s ball, who hit the new ball.
In the next ball, Kohli was his animated best as he whipped Hardik towards the square leg and Rashid Khan missed a tough opportunity deep down.
One sign of his growing confidence was to drive Rashid straight. Kohli quickly stood up against the fast bowlers as well as Rashid. The Indian superstar made his second fifty of the season with a full ball off Rashid at midwicket.
With Gane Kohli, du Plessis plays his role perfectly and continues to spin strikes alongside an odd boundary.
After the captain’s dismissal, Maxwell joined Kohli and went ballistic from one ball. The Australian cameo included a reverse scoop shot by Hardick that went all out. After collecting his second six off Rashid, Kohli tried hard and was stumped in the 17th over but by then the work was well and truly done.
Earlier, Hardik had raised the GT to a competitive level. Coming into the game with a low score, he warmed up nicely for the playoffs with a skillful fifty, although he was not his fluent best.
RCB restricted GT to 72 for three in 10 overs due to their brilliance on the field despite the threat of Riddhiman Sahar (31 off 22 balls).
Saha made another quick start with some clean hits but his opening partner Shubhaman Gill died cheaply. The right-hander poked a well-length ball and Maxwell, standing on a wide first slip, drew a stunning catch with one hand while diving to his right.
Matthew Wade, who was not his explosive best in the IPL, fell into a controversial call that also drew Kohli’s sympathy. Wade was sure he missed a sweep shot off Maxwell and didn’t take the time to review the off-field decision.
However, despite a clear deviation in its motion before the ball was placed on the pad, the Ultraage could not detect it and the TV umpire was with the on-field umpire’s call. Wade had no choice but to return to the dugout in silence.
Saha, who hit four boundaries and a six, accompanied Hardik in the middle but after mingling with his captain, the wicketkeeper fell short at his crease with a stunning direct hit from du Plessis mid-off.
Hardick, who was dismissed for 14, counted it with David Miller (34 off 25 balls), who continued his great run in the tournament.
Wanindu Hasranga overtook him with a sharp return catch before Miller hit three sixes.
Rashid (19 not out off six balls) joined Hardik in the death over and did what he did this season. The leg-spinner hit a pair of sixes towards the end and crossed the 160 mark.