Padikkal floats like butterfly and stings like an RC bee to defeat Royals by a TKO

If this had been a boxing match, the referee would have stepped in to end the contest and save the Royals from further punishment. With bats, rather than fists, Virat Kohli and 20-year-old southpaw Devdutt Padikkal combined speed, footwork and devastating punch power to leave the Royals reeling on the ropes.

The final bell sounded with five punch-drunk wides delivered by Mustafizur when there were still 21 balls left. By then, the pugilistic Padikkal had not only reached his maiden IPL hundred but in doing so, comprehensively outshone his more celebrated opening partner.

Could this finally be the year that the Royal Challengers claim the IPL crown and their galactic stars become a united fighting force rather than a collection of underperforming superstar individuals?

They’ve now won four in four and in some style too. Today, thanks to Padikkal and Kohli, previous match winners AB de Villiers and Glenn Maxwell could afford to just sit back and enjoy the show, surplus to requirements with the bat in the ten-wicket RCB win.

As Bangalore ascended to the IPL peak, the Royals travelled in the opposite direction, finding themselves bottom with just the one win to their name.

After Kohli had won the toss and put them in, Sanju Samson’s charges did well to haul themselves to 177 for nine, within touching distance of a par score that seemed unlikely after they had sunk to 18 for three in the fifth over.

Wickets may slow a run-rate, but it’s hard to slow something that has barely started moving. The ever-dangerous Siraj and the imposing Jamieson whipped out Jos Buttler, Maron Vohra and David Miller in rapid order and Washington Sundar stopped Samson’s resistance in its tracks when he chipped straight to Maxwell at midwicket.

With the top order blown away and a modest powerplay haul of 32 for three, it was left to Shivam Dube, Riyan Parag and Rahul Tewatia to put some backbone into an innings that had threatened to collapse in a heap.

But where Kohli and Padikkal would go on to score 101 and 72 not out respectively for RCB, the three Royals picked out fielders when well set on 46, 25 and 40. Never a man to be out of the action, Glenn Maxwell’s forward dive to dismiss Dube off Kyle Richardson was the pick of the three catches.

Harshal Patel’s final-over dismissals of Chris Morris and Chetan Sakariya left him on a hat-trick for the second time in this IPL, but he was again thwarted.

Man-of-the-match Padikkal was simply magnificent, slamming six sixes and 11 fours in his innings of just 52 balls including a towering straight drive of Mustafizur and a slog sweep off Sekariya. His fifty came up in 27 balls and like a runaway train he seemed to gather pace from there, leaving Kohli to tag along in his wake, but still able to find a moment in the spotlight as he brought up his 6000th IPL run.

The Royals will need to lick their wounds and regroup. Providing the RCBs can retain their focus and fitness, they are going to be a very hard nut to crack in the coming weeks.