Shardul Thakur and Ben Stokes transformed Rising Pune Supergiant’s weakest link by claiming three wickets each to hand Royal Challengers Bangalore a 27-run defeat in their IPL clash on Sunday.
In a match billed as a clash of captains — Virat Kohli versus Steven Smith —- the Australian emerged victorious after the mighty batting line-up of the home team caved in meekly to silence a packed M Chinnaswamy Stadium.
RCB bowlers seemed to have done their job after Virat Kohli elected to field first on winning the toss as Rising Pune Supergiant slid to 130 for 7 in 17.2 overs, but Manoj Tiwary took charge and hammered 27 off 11 balls to take his team to a challenging total.
RPS finished on 161 for eight before restricting Royal Challengers Bangalore 134/9.
Although the odds were still against them, all-rounder Ben Stokes, Thakur and left-arm paceman Jaydev Unadkat shared eight wickets to upstage RCB.
Stokes had Kohli caught by Ajinkya Rahane in the deep for a 19-ball 28 after Thakur, the Mumbai paceman, had got rid of the other opener, Mandeep Singh, for a duck.
Bangalore were down to 70/3 after leg spinner Imran Tahir had AB de Villiers, also well-set on 29, stumped by MS Dhoni before the Rising Pune Supergiant bowlers chipped away at the middle-order.
Thakur removed Pawan Negi (10) and Stuart Binny (18) in the same over, the 18th, before RPS claimed their second victory in this season from five matches. They rose from the bottom of the table to sixth.
Last year’s runners-up Royal Challengers Bangalore, who suffered their fourth defeat in five matches, dived to the bottom of the table.
The match was seen as a grudge affair between Kohli and Smith following the acrimonious Test series between India and Australia. RCB were forced to keep Chris Gayle out again to pick Shane Watson as the fourth foreign player in the eleven.
Opener Rahane was bowled by leg-spinner Samuel Badree for a steady 30, beaten by a straight delivery, and skipper Smith also did not go on to make a big total.
When Smith fell for a 24-ball 27, bowled by left-arm paceman Sreenath Aravind, the home team seemed to have got a grip on the game.
Smith had raised a 58-run partnership with Dhoni, but the batsmen fell off successive deliveries. Dhoni was bowled by Watson and off the first ball of the next over, Smith too was gone. However, Tiwary once again weighed in with a crucial knock in the final stages to give the beleaguered bowling unit a fighting chance.
The RPS pacers made the host batsmen pay the penalty for playing several big shots with smart bowling.