Kochi: Four blistering sixes from AB de Villiers, and his 52-run partnership with Saurabh Tiwary, won the night for Bangalore Royal Challengers. The first came in the ninth over in which Sreesanth leaked 15 runs as Bangalore moved to 80 for 2. It was a full delivery, off a free hit, and de Villiers went down on a bent knee to paddle-scoop it for a stunning six over fine-leg. The next blitz from him came after spinners Muttiah Muralitharan and Ravindra Jadeja choked up the run flow in the next few overs. With 33 runs required from the last three overs, de Villiers imposed himself against Ralph Gomez, who was asked to bowl his first over in that pressure situation. The second delivery was smashed over midwicket, the fifth disappeared over long-off and the final delivery was bulldozed over long-on. Game over.
It wouldn't have been an easy decision for Mahela Jayawardene, Kochi's captain, to turn to Gomez but RP Singh's poor effort in the 15th over must have forced his hand. With 59 runs needed from last six overs, RP Singh bowled a poor over. The first delivery was outside leg stump and Saurabh Tiwary shoved it to the fine-leg boundary. The second was a wide, the third was spanked to the straight boundary and kept bowling length and went for 15 runs.
Bangalore played the waiting game well and saw out Muralitharan and treated Ravindra Jadeja with some caution as they knew the mediumpacers could be taken for plenty. It was the same resolve that saw them come back in the game with the ball and restrict Kochi to 161 after Brendon McCullum and VVS Laxman had added 80 runs in nine overs.
Brendon McCullum and VVS Laxman are as different as a Bollywood masala flick and art-house cinema, but they combined superbly to lay a good platform. McCullum was the McCullum the world knows: aggressive, adrenaline-pumping and audacious as ever. He sashayed down the track in the first over to slap a Zaheer Khan delivery over extra cover, but really exploded in the second over against Dirk Nannes. A blasted off drive was followed with a slashed boundary but it was a thunderous pull over the midwicket boundary that really tested the lung power of the home crowd. It wasn't all that short but he swivelled to crash it into the screaming fans and Kochi were truly up and running.
Laxman has been itching for the IPL to start to prove his worth in the shortest format of the game. There were a few lovely hits: a late cut for four against Tillakaratne Dilshan, lofted on drives on a bent knee and a couple of flicks, but it was a flat-batted thumping six over long-on that really declared his ambition to do well in this tournament. It was a short-of-length delivery from Abhimanyu Mithun, who must have been really shocked to see Laxman back away and flat-bat it over the boundary. Together, Laxman and McCullum had given Kochi a great start, but slowly, and surely, Bangalore began to claw their way back.
In the final delivery of the ninth over, Laxman slog-swept Dilshan straight to deep midwicket, and in the 12th over, McCullum fell, top-edging a paddle scoop off Virat Kohli. Suddenly, the slow bowlers began to apply the squeeze. The legspinner Asad Pathan combined well with Kohli to keep Brad Hodge and Mahela Jayawardene in check. Jayawardene tried to break free against Daniel Vettori but was stumped in the 15th over, and Brad Hodge was yorked by Zaheer Khan in the 18th over. It was left to Ravindra Jadeja, who showed maturity in his shot selection, preferring the straight hits down the ground instead of across-the-line heaves, to push the score along. He did his bit with the ball too but it didn't prove enough.