The Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Mumbai Indians traded blows in equal measure before the latter, banking on their big-match pedigree, stood tall in an engrossing battle on Wednesday to take a huge step towards sealing their spot in the play-offs.

Asked to bat first by the defending champions, a confident-looking RCB made a sound start but were undone by the brilliance of chief tormentor Jasprit Bumrah (3/14). They fell apart in the final part of their innings to settle for a below-par 164/6 at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

The Royal Challengers, aware that a win would help them almost clinch a play-off spot, made life hard for the Mumbai Indians during the early part of the chase. They bowled to a plan, picking wickets at regular intervals and ensured that the asking rate was always above 9 for Mumbai. At the halfway stage, they had reduced MI to 72/3 and the game was anybody’s at that stage. However, talented in-form batsman Suryakumar Yadav, not picked in any of the squads for the Australia tour next month, had other plans.

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The 30-year-old Mumbaikar, in a mood from the time he strode out to the crease, blasted a sizzling unbeaten 79 (43b, 10×4, 3×6) as the champions crossed the line in 19.1 overs. Peppering the ground with some exquisite shots from even decent balls, he had RCB skipper Virat Kohli and his bowlers scratching their heads. No matter what they tried, Suryakumar was up for it and relentless at that. In the end, after cracking a boundary to carry MI home, he made a gesture that appeared to convey “Stay calm, I’m here.”  

Mumbai remain in pole position with 16 points while RCB, despite the defeat, stay in second place with 14 points and have two games left to seal their knockout spot.    

The Royal Challengers, meanwhile, will rue their batting collapse towards the death that undid all the good work of the strong start provided by openers Devdutt Padikkal (74, 45b, 12×4, 1×6) and Josh Philippe (33, 24b, 4×4, 1×6). The in-form Padikkal, who became the second uncapped Indian player to aggregate 400+ runs in a debut IPL season after Shreyas Iyer (2015), stuck to his risk-free cultured hitting, finding the gaps with ease. Be it the cover drive, the eye-pleasing flick over square leg or even the sweep (regular and reverse), Padikkal just oozed class. 

At the other end, Philippe, possessing a batting style similar to fellow Australian Steve Smith, kept shuffling around the crease in a bid to upset the bowlers’ rhythm. He was successful in that as RCB kept motoring along very nicely. Almost against the run of play, Philippe was dismissed, stumped while trying to attack Rahul Chahar.

RCB have the worst record during the middle overs (6.80) amongst all teams and while they bettered that in this game, they botched up the finish. AB de Villiers, Shivam Dube, Padikkal and Chris Morris all inexplicably found the fielders in the deep, RCB slipping from 131/3 to 138/6. That eventually cost them the game.



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