By: Pramod Thomas
Former India captain Virat Kohli smashed a masterful century as his Royal Challengers Bangalore thumped Sunrisers Hyderabad, for whom South Africa’s Heinrich Klaasen hit a ton of his own, by eight wickets in the IPL on Thursday (18).
The win leaves Bangalore in control of their own destiny in the race to the playoffs, moving up into the fourth and last qualifying spot.
They are tied with Mumbai Indians on 14 points but have a superior net run rate with one game to go — at home to table-topping Gujarat Titans on Sunday (21).
Kohli started his innings with two consecutive fours as Bangalore chased the hosts’ 186-5, and went on to hit another 10 boundaries and four sixes.
He brought up his sixth IPL ton — equal top with Chris Gayle — and first since 2019 smashing a six over deep midwicket off Bhuvneshwar Kumar after 62 balls.
The player popularly known as “King Kohli”, but whose form has varied in recent years, raised his bat and fell to his knees in celebration.
He was caught at cow corner on the very next ball attempting another slog.
“My intent from ball one was to go after the bowlers,” he said afterwards. “There was a dip but I wanted to take it up in the right time. Happy that it all came together nicely.
“I’m myself on the field and think it resonates with the people. Great to see people happy when I perform.”
His fellow opener and captain Faf du Plessis fell four balls later having made 71 off 47.
He remains the leading scorer in 2023 with 702 runs in 13 outings, and their 172-run partnership gave the duo the most runs in an IPL season for an opening pair.
Michael Bracewell saw RCB home with four balls to spare.
It was a bitter disappointment for Klaasen, who brought up his maiden IPL ton after just 49 balls — the second-fastest ever for his bottom-of-the-table franchise — with a six off Harshal Patel.
Two balls later he was out for 104.
“Pretty special feeling, fantastic crowd, glad I got it at home,” said the wicketkeeper-batsman, who hit a 54-ball ODI century for South Africa against West Indies in March.
All the IPL teams have now played 13 games each, with the last round of league matches kicking off Friday.
Gujarat have 18 points and will finish top. Chennai Super Kings and Lucknow Super Giants, with 15 points each, are favourites to take two of the remaining qualification spots, but Bangalore can claim second place if they beat Gujarat and other results go their way.
Three other teams — Rajasthan Royals, Kolkata Knight Riders, and Punjab Kings — are on 12 points, and have only mathematical chances of qualifying.