Yuvraj’s brilliant all-round display (83 & 4 for 35) and a rampant half-century by de Villiers eventually prove insufficient
Rajasthan Royals’ James Faulkner (41 n.o., 17b, 3×4, 3×6) and Steve Smith (48 n.o., 21b, 4×4, 4×6) effected a remarkable turnaround to guide their team past Royal Challengers Bangalore, and in the process, took the sheen away from Yuvraj Singh’s resurgent show in the IPL match here on Sunday.
Chasing 191, Rajasthan required a seemingly improbale 83 runs off six overs, and the champagne to toast an RCB victory was ready to be uncorked. A brutal counterattack followed, and the duo comfortably got Rajasthan over the line with seven balls to spare, leaving the home team stunned.
The Australian pair’s sixth-wicket salvo sent the Virat Kohli’s side crashing to its sixth defeat in nine matches. The dangerous intent only slowly crept upon the opposition; every shot over the fence seemed to deflate RCB in small instalments. And when Faulkner flicked Varun Aaron for six to bring up his team’s sixth win, RCB was left wondering how an impregnable-looking position crumbled the way it did.
Earlier, Yuvraj blasted his way to a 38-ball 83 to force his way out of an indifferent slump. The high backlift, the short-arm flick for six over fine-leg, the authoritative strides down the wicket at the spinners — all these pleasing sights re-emerged. With every clean hit, it became clear that he was on his way.
It was, however, not at all smooth-sailing. Yuvraj was tested by the leg-spin combination of Pravin Tambe and Rahul Tewatia, the response coming with a series of unconvincing sweep shots. At this stage, it appeared that another early end to a Yuvraj knock was near.
A lofted six over mid-wicket off Tewatia in the 11th over broke the shackles, and his confidence steadily grew. All doubts were put to bed in the 19th over — bowled by Kane Richardson — when Yuvraj pulled out the whole arsenal. A wristy flick fell into the fine-leg stand, a pull went for four and a stunning abridged version of the helicopter shot brought his seventh maximum, sending the crowd into raptures.
In the company of the rampant A.B. de Villiers (58 off 32 balls), he put on 132 runs in 65 deliveries for the fourth wicket, to rescue the RCB innings, which seemed to be heading nowhere. At the end of the 12th over, the home team had moved to an unimpressive 70 for three, with the duo still finding their feet at the crease. From here, the last eight overs produced a whopping 120 runs, taking RCB to its highest total so far, by some distance.
The chase began with intent, with openers Ajinkya Rahane and Karun Nair chugging along at a brisk rate. A low reflex catch by wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel cut Rahane short for 24, allowing Yuvraj to take centrestage once again.
Skipper Shane Watson was castled off an attempted cut, and three balls later, Yuvraj had Stuart Binny caught in the deep. Two more wickets in the form of Sanju Viswanadh and a dangerous Karun Nair (56 off 39) meant the India international registered his best bowling and batting performance of the tournament in the same match.
Yuvraj cut Rajasthan down to 106 for five inside 14 overs, and he seemed to have done more than his share to ensure an RCB victory.
Smith and Faulkner, however, would not allow him to walk into the sunset.