That they enjoy batting together is no secret as was evident from the way they setup a crucial win for their Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore against Delhi Daredevils to keep their playoff hopes alive. Chasing 182, Kohli scored 40-ball 70 and De Villiers smashed unbeaten 72 off 37 to take RCB over the line with five wickets and an over to spare at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium on Saturday night.
After the game, Kohli had on Twitter posted about how much he enjoyed batting with De Villiers, terming his 118-run partnership with the South African as “special”. In reply, De Villiers, in his column for The Times of India today, has returned the favour by crediting Kohli to have helped him get back in to the groove after he found himself initially struggling against Delhi.
“After the loss of two early wickets, Virat Kohli and I found ourselves batting together, something we both enjoy,” he wrote. “I battled at first, struggling to find my timing; it has been hard to regain my rhythm after falling ill and missing a couple of matches, but it was great to see Virat driving the ball for six over extra cover and then whipping another maximum over mid-wicket.”
He then went on to call Kohli “a force of nature at crease” which enabled him to score yet another match-winning knock this season against DD. “He is so skilful and determined, a force of nature at crease, and, ball by ball, he helped me get back into the game, until I could start to make a contribution, playing my part as we reached our target with an over to spare,” he wrote.
Table-toppers Sunrisers Hyderabad and Chennai Super Kings are the only teams so far to have ensured themselves a top-four finish. A defeat against Delhi would have sealed RCB’s fate but with a dominating win, they have extended their hopes of qualifying for the playoffs.
However, against DD, RCB had done well to keep the home batsmen quiet for most of the innings. Then, their propensity to leak runs in the death overs again came to the fore as from 125/4 in the 16th over, they allowed DD to score freely in the last four overs to post a challenging 181/4 – 56 runs off 24 deliveries.
“On Saturday evening, against DD in Delhi, we needed to make a strong start — that’s twice as important away from home because you can quell the excitement of the home supporters — and, bowling first in Delhi, Yuzvendra Chahal and Moeen Ali each produced excellent spells of bowling. We contained DD in the first 15 but, again, conceded far too many runs in the last five overs and left ourselves a challenging target of 182 to win the match,” De Villiers admitted to RCB’s death overs struggle.
However, the 34-year-old echoed the words of RCB coach Daniel Vettori who believes the team can still prove to be unstoppable this season. “Dan Vettori, our coach, spoke after the match. He implored us to focus on each ball, and to take ownership of every single moment. ‘If we get that right,’ he concluded, ‘we’ll win the next three matches and we can still be unstoppable in this tournament.’ I agree with him,” De Villiers revealed.