A vintage blitz from Virat Kohli (73 off 54 balls), with support from Faf du Plessis (44 off 38 balls) and Glenn Maxwell (40 not out off 18 balls) took Royal Challengers Bangalore to fourth place in IPL 2022 points table with an emphatic eight-wicket win over table-toppers Gujarat Titans at the Wankhede Stadium on Thursday.
After Hardik Pandya's unbeaten 62 along with David Miller's 34 and Rashid Khan's cameo of 19 off just six balls carried Gujarat to 168/5 with Harshal Patel unavailable due to right-hand injury, Kohli came out all guns blazing, bringing out his vintage self with a pumped-up attitude to notch up his highest score of the tournament, which was also his second fifty against Gujarat in the tournament.
He was also involved in a 115-run partnership with du Plessis, the highest opening stand for the side in the tournament. Post the duo's fall, Maxwell applied the finishing touches for Bangalore to emerge victorious with eight balls to spare. With Bangalore's win, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Punjab Kings are out of the knockouts race. For Bangalore to retain their fourth place and progress to the playoffs, they would need for Delhi Capitals to lose their match against Mumbai Indians on Saturday.
In the pursuit of 169, Bangalore were off to a flying start with Kohli and du Plessis hitting nine boundaries, amassing 55 runs in power-play. It was also just the third time Gujarat failed to pick a wicket in the first six overs. The chief reason behind it was Kohli running quick off the blocks and quashing queries over his poor form throughout the tournament, with the crowd firmly cheering for the talismanic batter.
He began by lofting Mohammed Shami over his head and then superbly lofted him inside-out over extra-cover. Thursday felt like luck was favouring Kohli heavily. When Hardik Pandya cramped Kohli with a slower ball, the think inside edge rolled past the stumps.
When Kohli whipped a full ball in the air, Rashid Khan, who was inches inside the square-leg boundary, dropped the catch. Kohli then produced the shot of the match, dancing down the pitch and lofting straight over Rashid's head with impeccable timing.
With du Plessis giving solid support, Kohli brought up his fifty in 33 balls with a nice clipped six over deep mid-wicket off Rashid. Du Plessis brought up the century of the opening partnership by swatting Lockie Ferguson through mid-wicket. But he fell six short of his fifty, as a top-edge on slog sweep went to cover off Rashid, bringing the 115-run stand to a close.
Rashid then hit the top of Maxwell's leg stump as the batter tried to swipe across the line. But the bails didn't come off and the ball rolled away for four byes. The slice of luck at the start proved advantageous for Maxwell as he smacked Pandya for sixes -- a loft over long-on and a reverse scoop over third man -- apart from a boundary through long leg.
Kohli's dazzling show continued as he elegantly brought out lofted drive over long-off against Rashid. But a ball later, he tried to hit another six but the ball went through the gap between bat and pad to be stumped by a quickish googly from Rashid. Maxwell smacked four boundaries in his next nine balls, including three off Ferguson, to seal the match in Bangalore's favour.
Earlier, Pandya elected to bat first on a sluggish pitch, only to see his side reduced to 62/3 in 8.3 overs. Maxwell's one-handed screamer, diving full-length to his right at slip sent Shubman Gill back to the pavilion off Josh Hazlewood. Matthew Wade was trapped lbw for 16 while shuffling for a sweep against Maxwell. The left-hander was quick to review but UltraEdge showed no spike when the ball passed the bat despite the side angle showing a clear deviation in the trajectory of the ball.
Wriddhiman Saha smacked three boundaries and a six in power-play but slowed down considerably before being run out by a direct hit from du Plessis. But as has been the case with Gujarat in the tournament, they have found ways to be out of tough situations. On Thursday, they found their saviours in Pandya, Miller and Rashid.
Pandya had luck on his side when the mishit straight down the ground was palmed over the long-on rope by Suyash Prabhudessai for six. In the next over, he came forward to defend against Wanindu Hasaranga, only to edge just wide of the keeper for a boundary. With Patel going off the field after bleeding from his bowling hand in the 13th over, Miller dispatched Maxwell for back-to-back sixes in the 14th over before smacking an overpitched delivery from Shahbaz Ahmed over long-on for his third six of the night.
But Hasaranga broke the 61-run partnership off 47 balls by grabbing a sharp return catch on Miller's drive down the ground. After Rahul Tewatia fell cheaply, Pandya and Rashid cut loose with two boundaries and a six - the second of which took the former to his fifty in 42 balls - in the 19th over, followed by the duo hitting a six each over cow corner in the last over off Hazlewood to take 34 runs off the last two overs, which was inadequate in the face of a charged-up Kohli.
Brief scores: Gujarat Titans 168/5 in 20 overs (Hardik Pandya 62 not out, David Miller 34; Josh Hazlewood 2/39, Wanindu Hasaranga 1/25) lost to Royal Challengers Bangalore 170/2 in 18.4 overs (Virat Kohli 73, Faf du Plessis 44; Rashid Khan 2/32).