South African southpaws
You could easily look at Quinton de Kock and let his boyish features and the perennial wide-eyed, first-day-at-school expression fool you. For, there’s little about him that justifies the Protea-obsession with him being the next-big-thing of South African cricket. That is when he is not holding a bat in hand. For, once he does don his batting gloves, de Kock packs a punch with almost every shot he plays. To the extent that if you give him width, you are putting the ball in harm’s way. A crime that the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) bowlers were guilty of committing recurrently at the Chinnaswamy Stadium on Sunday afternoon. And how he made them pay for it.
De Kock’s biggest strength, of course, is his fulsome bat-swing and the equally flamboyant follow-throw. It is what allows him to generate such power, especially through the off-side, despite his lithe frame. You just need to ask the Indian fast bowlers who toured South Africa in late 2013, when de Kock hammered them for three centuries on the trot. It was a performance that made him a big-money buy for the Delhi Daredevils a few months later. A year-and-a-half on, de Kock has hardly lived up to that promise. On Sunday, though, he showed glimpses of his rare talent, hitting nine fours and three sixes in his 39-ball 69. Most of those boundaries came in the region between backward point and extra cover, as the likes of Ashoke Dinda, Harshal Patel and David Wiese kept getting carved through the off-side. While he preferred the cut-shot as always, he was equally punchy off the front-foot, whenever the RCB seamers pitched it full. De Kock was also equally destructive when allowed a free-swing of his arms, like he showed while launching Dinda and Wiese over the wide long-on fence for sixes.
Unlike de Kock, there hasn’t really been much doubt over JP Duminy’s ability to clear boundaries. He’s always been counted amongst the cleanest strikers in world cricket. The seasoned left-hander though has spent most of IPL 8 stressed by his team’s inability to finish matches and take on the initiative. It hasn’t deterred his consistency with the bat though. With the pressure of qualifying for the playoffs long gone, Duminy decided to let his hair down and have some fun. He launched into the RCB death bowlers with a string of powerful drives and pulls, while taking apart the spinners with monstrous hits. He finished unbeaten on 67 and an overall average of 41.40.
The South African southpaws ensured that Delhi, who had their best finish in three seasons by finishing one from bottom, ended the season in style, posting 187/5 on the board.Rub of the green.
Rub of the green
But not before the Daredevils provided another display of the biggest drawback of their past few IPL campaigns — the failure to make the most of good positions, and the penchant to implode and self-destruct. When de Kock was caught by Virat Kohli off the second ball of the 12th over, the Daredevils had already raced to 110. A target of 200-plus was well within reach now. Instead, they lost their way.
After running back and hanging on to de Kock’s catch Kohli slammed the ball on the ground. He looked angry. And he soon called for an all-party huddle, where he seemed to be laying down the law. It seemed to work as RCB grabbed back the momentum by getting rid of Yuvraj Singh and Kedar Jadhav in quick succession. That is before the rub of the green went RCB’s way on a day they were decked in green as part of their annual pro-environment initiative, as the ball touched Chahal’s finger-tip and knocked the bails off with Angelo Mathews’ bat centimetres off the ground. Rain has the final say
Rain has the final say
In reply, the RCB openers only got to face seven deliveries before the dark clouds finally lived up to their promise and the heavens opened. The rain did show signs of relenting briefly but just as the umpires looked set for an inspection it started pouring again and the match was called off. As a result, RCB did qualify for the playoffs for the first time in three years, but they had to be content with finishing out of the top-two. It means their playoff campaign will include only do-or-die encounters, starting with the Eliminator in Pune on Wednesday. They ended with 16 points but only 7 wins for which they have themselves to blame after letting go of easy opportunities to get more points, like in the game against CSK at Chepauk.
Brief scores: Delhi 187 for five (de Kock 69 off 39, Duminy 67* off 43, Y Chahal 2/26, H Patel 2/30) vs Bangalore 2 for 0 (C Gayle 1, V Kohli 1) in 1.1 overs.