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Match Analysis

Kohli shows he has 'still got it' in T20s with an innings like no other

In his second game after a two-month break, Kohli serves a reminder with an explosive innings at Chinnaswamy

Hemant Brar
Hemant Brar
26-Mar-2024
The boisterous Chinnaswamy crowd had gone quiet towards the end of Punjab Kings' innings as Shashank Singh carted Alzarri Joseph for two sixes and a four in a 20-run final over.
That lifted Kings to 176 for 6. Given the average first-innings total in Bengaluru last IPL was 196, it felt below par. But this was not a typical Chinnaswamy pitch where you could hit through the line. It had just enough grass covering and help for both seamers and spinners.
Just like the RCB bowlers, Sam Curran also found movement with the new ball, and drew a false shot from Virat Kohli first up. But the thick outside edge did not carry to short third.
On the next ball, Kohli was even luckier. This time the outside edge burst through Jonny Bairstow's hands at first slip. Usually, the first-slip fielder stands one metre behind the wicketkeeper, but Bairstow was right next to Jitesh Sharma and, therefore, had little time to react.
From there on, it was a Kohli innings like no other. On the third ball of the over, he came down the track, cut the movement, and creamed it through the covers. By the end of the first over, he had found two more boundaries, and the Chinnaswamy faithful went "Aaar Ceee Beee! Aaar Ceee Beee!"
Next in the firing line was Kagiso Rabada. Before Monday, Rabada had dismissed Kohli three times in 24 balls while conceding just 27. Here, on Rabada's very first ball, a length delivery around off stump, Kohli jumped out of his crease and smashed it over extra cover. In the next over, he meted out the same treatment to Arshdeep Singh.
In his first 15 balls, Kohli had hit eight fours and raced away to 33. It was the most runs he had scored off his first 15 balls in a T20, and his eight boundaries were the joint-most by an RCB batter after four overs in an innings.
And he was not slogging. He rarely does. When Arshdeep slipped in a slower ball, he delayed his shot and opened the face at the last moment to steer it past a diving Bairstow for four.
In the sixth over, Kohli got another reprieve when he mistimed Curran to the left of short midwicket, but Rahul Chahar could not latch on to it despite a full-length dive.
It is after the powerplay that Kohli generally drops the anchor. Since the start of 2020, his middle-overs strike rate in the IPL is 117.53. But on Monday, he kept playing attacking cricket and scored at a strike rate of 150 in the middle overs.
Previously, he had scored only 32 runs off 37 balls against Chahar in the IPL. Here, the first ball he faced from the legspinner, Kohli smashed it over extra cover for a six.
Kohli brought up his fifty in 31 balls - his 100th score of 50 or more in T20s. But there was no celebration - just a thumbs-up to acknowledge the applause from the dressing room. The reason was that while Kohli himself was off to a flying start, RCB were behind the asking rate. Moreover, they had lost Faf du Plessis and Cameron Green for a combined six runs.
Harpreet Brar then bowled Rajat Patidar for a run-a-ball 18 and Glenn Maxwell for 3. But Kohli singlehandedly kept RCB alive.
When Kohli was India's captain, one of the things he demanded from his batters was intent, even in Tests. "Intent does not mean you have to go out and start playing shots from ball one," he once explained. "Intent is there in a leave. Intent is there in defending as well. Intent is about being vocal out there in calling."
That may be true in Test cricket, but in T20s, intent means only one thing: playing your shots. And that is exactly what Kohli did against Kings. As per ESPNcricinfo's logs, he attacked 11 balls in the powerplay, the most he has ever done in T20 cricket. In the middle overs, he attacked 14, the second-most in his career.
"I know my name is nowadays quite attached to just promoting the game in many parts of the world when it comes to T20 cricket. But still got it, I guess."
Virat Kohli
There could be a couple of reasons behind it. With the T20 World Cup in June, this is the way the Indian team wants him to bat. Secondly, RCB's batting depth might also have freed him up. Green joined them before this season; Anuj Rawat and Dinesh Karthik had made handy contributions in the previous game; they had an extra batter in Mahipal Lomror, slotted at No. 8, against Kings.
Kohli eventually fell for 77 off 49 balls, slicing Harshal Patel straight to deep-backward point. RCB still needed 47 from four overs at that point, but Karthik and Lomror took them home with four balls to spare.
"I was very disappointed I could not finish the game; that ball was in the slot," Kohli said after being named the Player of the Match. "But yeah, not a bad start for playing after two months and getting into the tournament."
Talking about his mindset while batting, he said: "In T20 cricket, as I am opening here, I try to give the team a blazing start. But if the wickets fall from the other end, you have to understand the conditions as well.
"The wicket was not as placid as Bangalore usually is. It was a bit two-paced. And I thought I needed to play correct cricketing shots. Playing across the line was not quite working; I tried a few."
What about his lofted cover drives after coming down the pitch to Rabada and Arshdeep?
"They know I play the cover drive pretty well," he said. "So they are not going to allow me to hit through the gaps. And with guys like KG [Rabada], and Arshdeep as well - he is also tall, if they are hitting [good] length, you have to create some momentum into the ball. Once you are closer to the ball, you kind of negate the bounce; you meet it earlier.
"You have to come up with a plan here and there, and try to keep improving your game. I know my name is nowadays quite attached to just promoting the game in many parts of the world when it comes to T20 cricket. But still got it, I guess."
Who could have disagreed?

Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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