AB de Villiers of the Royal Challengers Bangalore plays a shot against the Delhi Capitals in IPL 2021 in Ahmedabad on April 27, 2021. Image Credit: Sportzpics

AB de Villiers is a legend in the Indian Premier League. His batting exploits for the Royal Challengers Bangalore are a part of the IPL folklore. Every year, he goes home and spends time with his family in Pretoria, South Africa. Plays golf in his spare time. And comes back for IPL to weave his magic.

How does De Villiers do it? Nobody knows. For a man who hardly plays cricket for most of the year, his IPL feats are phenomenal. And they have helped rescue RCB time and again.

On Tuesday (April 27, 2021) too, he masterminded the RCB win from an unlikely position. De Villiers’ unbeaten 75 (42 balls) came when the Bangalore big guns were back in the pavilion. And 23 of the runs came in the last over from Marcus Stoinis. Those runs could well have decided the match. For it gave RCB bowlers a fighting total, although Delhi Capital came within a whisker.

Did the Stoinis over cost Delhi the match?

For IPL watchers, it didn’t come as a surprise. De Villiers’ ability to pull off big shots at will is legendary. So when Delhi captain Rishabh Pant brought on Stoinis for the final over, experts were quick to call it a mistake since the Australian hadn’t bowled in the match till then. But then Andre Russell, Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo had done it successfully. And Stoinis has handled it well in the past.

For De Villiers, the bowler wouldn’t have mattered. He would have taken on any bowler. Last year, Rajasthan Royals’ Jaydev Unadkat was burned by De Villiers’ blazing blade. Even South African great Dale Steyn had been scythed down his rapier strokes at the death. So there’s no shame in being taken apart by a rampaging De Villiers. It’s just that his prodigious talent allows De Villiers to carry out superhuman feats on a cricket field.

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Delhi Capitals did well to shrug off the shellacking and focus on the chase. Pant held them together with an uncharacteristically subdued knock after the early clatter of wickets. Shimron Hetmyer’s power-hitting brought Delhi to the doorstep of victory. If only he was on strike for the final over. Pant’s timing hasn’t been great, and that showed in the end.

A one-run verdict reflects thin margins. An extra run lost or denied, a missed scoring opportunity, a poor no-ball call: it could have been anything. It merely reflects the intensity of the contest. A game that any team could have won. That’s the nature of Twenty20 matches. That’s in the DNA of IPL.

The thin margin also brings the focus back to Delhi’s last over bowled by Stoinis. Those 23 runs mattered. De Villiers’ magic won the day.