Mohammed Siraj
Mohammed Siraj of the Royal Challengers Bangalore celebrates the wicket of Nitish Rana of the Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL 2020 game in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. Image Credit: Sportzpics for BCCI

A beaming Mohammed Siraj is the toast of the Royal Challengers Bangalore. His three-wicket burst broke the back of the Kolkata Knight Riders on Wednesday, and they never really recovered in the IPL 2020 game in Abu Dhabi.

Siraj’s magical spell, which included an IPL record of two maidens in a row, demonstrated that old-fashioned swing and seam have a place in T20 cricket if the conditions are right. Not that it was ever in doubt. But his ability to hit the right line and length underlined the utility of medium-pacers in the shortest format of the game.

Bangalore took ownership of another IPL record of bowling four consecutive maidens. The two by Siraj were interspersed by one each from Chris Morris and Washington Sundar. Never in the history of IPL had any team bowled more than two back-to-back maidens.

This is testimony to the effectiveness of Bangalore’s bowling unit. Siraj may have stolen the thunder with two breathtaking overs, but it was Yuzvendra Chahal who struck two telling blows to snuff out any hopes of a Kolkata revival.

Is Bangalore ready to soar?

The bowlers are buzzing. And they have played a key role in Bangalore’s vault to the third spot in the leaderboard. That’s a cause for cheer, because bowling had let down Bangalore badly in the past. If they can build on this, there should no stopping Bangalore.

True, there are some concerns about batting. But nothing that would require drastic surgeries. Those irritants could be ironed in the rest of the games ahead of the playoffs. If everything else fails, Bangalore have AB de Villiers.

Kolkata must be wondering what really hit them. They looked like shoring up the IPL campaign when they ran into an inspired Bangalore. The defeat and the manner in which they succumbed show that there’s plenty of work to do.

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Captain Eoin Morgan’s decision to leave out two of Kolkata’s talismanic players, Andre Russell and Sunil Narine, reflects the team’s battle to strike the right combination. It’s the first time since 2012 that Kolkata took the field without Russell and Narine. Fitness and form are worries. Hard decisions are necessary to whip the team into shape.

Four wickets for 17 runs in powerplay is plenty of cause for worry. The loss also highlighted Kolkata’s lack of resilience. At no stage did they looked capable of rebuilding. The signs of fragility were there, and now this is ample proof of their brittle batting.

Kolkata are in the fourth slot of the points table, but the loss has instilled hope in Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab. The race for playoff spots just got more interesting.