IPL 2022 – RCB vs. CSK

Pune was supposed to be a neutral venue for the Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Chennai Super Kings, but that was not the case. The Sea of ​​Yellow gathered around the MCA Stadium a good three hours before the game, just like 2018, when it was a franchise organized special trains charter fans from Chennai after their home games had to be evicted. The Dhoni fans set off, the Kohli fans joined them, and it was as if the stadium was one giant party waiting to take off, with the yellow comfortably overpowering the red.

As if the players feel just as at home as the fans, the surface prepared for this match – either intentionally or accidentally – was in the alley of Super Kings. There was turning, catching and rejecting. And when all of these factors are magically synchronized, like devices within the Apple ecosystem, MS Dhoni the captain becomes another beast.

Royal Challengers were bad starters. Their score of 6.58 in the powerplay coming into this game was the weakest among all 10 teams this season. On Wednesday, however, they were out of the blocks like a fast train. The edges fly thick and fast, the cuts pierce the outer ring, but it wasn’t until Virat KohliMagnificent slap for six that they are in a really good mood. For a moment, the yellows roared. But before the Royal Challengers managed to absorb the feeling that they had started well, they were stifled. Dhoni’s choking spin has just begun to work, and when that happens, he has complete control.

Moeen Ali was on the second ball on the board after returning after a short break due to injury when Faf du Plessis missed a long jump into a deep midwicket in the eighth over. In the ninth, Glenn Maxwell escaped trying to steal a single after a horrible misjudgment from Kohli. In the 10th, Kohli was killed by a Moeen ripper. He threw it up and made it snap off the surface to beat his drive and crash into the stumps. The first three went within 10 overs. 62 for 0 was now 79 for 3.

It took two unannounced players to draw the Royal Challengers: Rajat Patidar and Mahipal Lomror. Before the season started, you may not have seen both in the same XI. Patidar was not even selected at the auction. He was thinking about playing in the Dhaka Premier League or the club cricket season in the UK after remaining unsold at auction. But before anything happened to him, he called Mike Hesson, director of cricket operations at Royal Challengers, asking him to pack his bags and show up for the IPL. An injury that ruled out rookie wickekeeper Luvneet Sisodia gave Patidar a chance.

Then, there’s Lomror, who saw a lot of life and cricket at 22 years old. Six years ago, he was part of the same group of Indian under-19s as Rishabh Pant, Ishan Kishan and Avesh Khan. As the careers of the three progressed in the fast lane, Lomror, all 19, was given the captaincy of Rajasthan’s first-class team. It is a country known for its administrative challenges, where choices are often arbitrary and teams are decided only on the day of departure. As a captain, he led the team, logistics, training and everything else.

It’s among the harshest reality checks a player his age can get at a time when he might have had fun hitting a red-and-white ball. To his credit, Lomror’s degree as a big-game player may have come about because of additional responsibility. It is quite another matter that the captaincy would soon leave his hands, but he showed that he has a good head on his shoulders.

In junior cricket, Lomror and Pant were strikers in Rajasthan. Lomror even got the nickname ‘Junior Gayle’ from Chandrakant Pandit, a former Indian goalkeeper who is now a respected home coach, a man known to have a keen eye for talent. On Wednesday, the Royal Challengers needed Lomror to channel Gayle into it. He needed to regain the lost momentum from inning. On a surface where it was not easy to get in and immediately start swinging.

Patidar helped him there. Selected seemingly for a powerful turn-based game that the Royal Challengers thought would be worth breaking into at No. 3, he was quickly out of the blocks, hitting hard and moving the scoreboard. After the fourth ball he faced, the first from Moen, he reached the field and threw a flying delivery into the stands on a long-on. And again he walked away from the next Moeen, trying to throw him off his length. Then Maheesh Theekshan came along, Patidar sent a fiery bullet over Lomror that bent to a flat border. What stood out in his filming was his clarity. On the ground with the bite, he quickly realized that a kick with a turn was the right way.

Patidar’s venture also had a positive effect on Lomror, who used long levers with great effect. And in a short time, the Royal Challengers came back and set off with a pair that added 44 of 32. The substitute and midfielder, who spent five seasons at the Royals but with little time to play, expertly revived the changes.

When Patidar fell on an outstanding catch from Mukesha Choudhary who sprinted for 15-ball 21 in the 16th over, you had the feeling he had done his job. This brought top finisher Dinesh Karthik, who struggled at first, especially with Theekshan bowling hard into the pitch and forcing him to step up the pace, but by then Lomror was preparing for the final boom.

Too often in the past, the Royal Challengers lacked a solid Indian unlimited player capable of bridging the gap between their first row and finisher. In just two shifts Lomror proved he could step up. By the time Lomror came out in the 19th, he had saved the innings and given their bowlers something to defend.

It was still just a couple, but without a lot of dew, it could still be done. And when he made 42 of 26, Lomror convinced himself and everyone that his total T20 hit rate of 120 in the season was going north. He also gave an insight into his maturity and moderation as the Royal Challengers fight for depth in competition.

Shashank Kishore is a senior contributor to ESPNcricinfo

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