Middle-overs success and familiarity factor key in RCB’s maiden win

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A knock of 99 at a strike rate of more than 150 can be termed an above average effort. But if that comes with lack of support from the other end and having to bat through the 20 overs, the eventual total will, more often than not, end up as an average one. Which was exactly the case with Chris Gayle’s knock and Kings XI Punjab’s total of 173 against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Saturday.
Gayle’s strike rate was more than that of Virat Kohli and close to what AB de Villiers finished with. The left-handed opener struck 70 of his runs through fours and sixes, six more than what Kohli and de Villiers combined had managed in boundaries. But the difference was in the contrasting approach of both teams during the middle overs, where Kings XI’s progress was stagnated by spin and quick wickets while the Royal Challengers rode on a strong partnership involving their top two players to ease over the line for their first time in seven games.With KL Rahul providing solid support, Gayle had raced off to 48 off 23 balls at the end of the Powerplay, with the help of six fours and three sixes. But the Royal Challengers, through their spinners, did a good job of applying the brakes on the scoring with some tight bowling and striking at regular intervals. What Kings XI lacked was a partnership of substance.After a profitable 66-run association for the opening wicket, Gayle was forced into a conservative approach as he kept losing partners at the other end. His partnerships with Mayank Agarwal, Sarfaraz Khan and Sam Curran for the next three wickets combined yielded only 47 runs off 45 balls, with the Jamaican managing only 12 off 20. Having scored a boundary off the last ball of the sixth over, Gayle’s next shot to the ropes only came in the 15th over and it took him until the 17th over for his next maximum – a dry spell where he went without a four for 21 deliveries and a six for 30.“Once again, we got ourselves into a good position where we can launch but we probably haven’t done that. I was speaking to the guys (and felt that) the wicket slowed up a bit through the middle. We saw that with the way Chris Gayle started and then struggled towards the end. The RCB bowlers adapted pretty well and changed the pace on the ball,” said Ryan Harris, Kings XI’s bowling coach, about the middle overs phase.“We been in situations a few times now where we’ve were four down and we were probably 20 short of where we really should have been. Saying that, it was a pretty good innings from Chris Gayle. I thought he led the team really well (with his batting). To be able to do that, trying to control the middle. I guess we lost a lot of wickets as well during the middle, doesn’t really help as it stops the run rate,” said Harris.The Royal Challengers approached the middle overs in a clinical manner through Kohli and de Villiers’s second wicket stand. They got together towards the end of the fourth over and the partnership lasted until the third ball of the 16th, by which time they had added 85 runs. Although the difference between the two sides was marginal at the end of the 16th over of their respective innings.