Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli of Royal Challengers Bangalore plays a pull shot against Rajasthan Royals in Match 15 of IPL 2020 at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi on October 3, 2020. Image Credit: Sportzpics for BCCI

Early wickets against Rajasthan Royals, a brisk start from their openers and a superbly paced chase: skipper Virat Kohli couldn’t have asked for more. Everything worked for the Bangalore Royal Challengers so well in the eight-wicket defeat of Rajasthan Royals that it was devoid of excitement. After the top three Rajasthan batsman wilted in the afternoon there was only one winner in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

Virat Kohli struck form with his first fifty of IPL 2020, but what was more remarkable was his captaincy. He attacked Rajasthan with aggressive field placing and his decision to have a slip resulted in the Jos Buttler dismissal. Sanju Samson was greeted with the introduction of leggie Yuzvendra Chahal in the powerplay. That turned out to be a smart move.

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After the removal of Steve Smith, Butler and Samson, there wasn’t much fight left in Rajasthan. Mahipal Lomror and Rahul Tewatia helped repair the damage, but 154 was never going to be enough.

The brittle middle-order is a problem Rajasthan hope to remedy with the arrival of Ben Stokes. This spineless display also makes a case for Smith to drop down the order, and push Robin Uthappa to the opening slot.

While the first day game of IPL 13 exposed Rajasthan’s limitations, it provided further validation to the changes Bangalore rang out for the match against Mumbai Indians. Isuru Udana and Adam Zampa have given the bowling more depth, allowing Kohli to use Washington Sundar in the powerplay and Chahal to grab wickets.

That brings us to the question: Did Bangalore solve their problems in the slog overs? No, the Mumbai Indians’ brutal assault in the last five overs put the match into the Super Over. It was a match that Bangalore should have won with plenty to spare. No such hiccups against Rajasthan, who didn’t have the quality to test the Bangalore bowling at the death.

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Bangalore’s brisk start, where Devdutt Padikkal’s continues to revel (he became the first to score three fifties in IPL 13), quelled whatever hopes Rajasthan harboured. Even Aaron Finch’s dismissal didn’t matter much, with Kohli used the opportunity to score some badly needed runs. He seemed to have regained his touch, and that’s bad news for other teams.

Now, it’s the turn of Rajasthan to go back to the drawing board. After two thunderous wins in Sharjah, the matches in Dubai and Abu Dhabi have offered a rigorous examination of the team’s capabilities. They need to look at the squad more carefully and come up with solutions. Or else, a playoff berth will remain a pipedream.