Glenn Maxwell is feeling the love at RCB after his second successive fifty helped his new team to a third successive win in the IPL that has put them top of the table and enhanced belief that this really could be their year.
The Australian hit 78 from 49 balls, repairing an RCB innings that threatened to come apart within minutes of the start as Virat Kohli and Rajit Patidar were dismissed by the leg spinner Varun Chakravarthy in the second over. He produced a stunning display of 360-degree cricket as he smashed nine fours and three sixes, sharing in partnerships of 86 with Devdutt Padikkal and 53 with AB de Villiers.
De Villiers's explosive unbeaten 76 from 34 balls lifted RCB to a challenging 204 for four, 17 runs better than the previous highest score on these sticky Chennai surfaces. Kolkata fell short by 38 runs.
There is no doubt that Maxwell, 32, is feeling more comfortable having been promised a prolonged audition in the No 4 role in this team. He has now scored two fifties in three innings after going five years without a half-century.
Kohli, his captain with Bangalore, could not be more happy, nor more supportive: while Maxwell's own celebrations on reaching his fifty in 28 balls were muted, Kohli was seen leaping from his seat, and clapping in an exaggerated manner in footage that quickly went viral.
Later, the India skipper said: "Maxwell was outstanding. He has taken to this team like a duck to water. We got 40 extra runs on that pitch which slowed down."
By that reckoning, KKR captain Eoin Morgan ought not to have been too disappointed with his team's reply – they made it to 166, which counts as a half-decent score at this ground on the evidence so far – but no one batsman was able to make his contribution tell.
And afterwards, the England white-ball captain admitted he has been nonplussed by the Chennai tracks. Morgan said: "[It] certainly has stumped me, and I can't gauge the wicket. Everyone who batted on this wicket felt it played better [today]."
He also found himself the target of a crushing broadside from Gautam Gambhir in his role as self-appointed chief pundit of the IPL.
Gambhir, who led KKR to two IPL titles, was particularly critical of Morgan's decision to take off Chakravarthy after he had taken those two crucial wickets in his first over.
Describing it as the weirdest captaincy decision he had ever seen, he said: "Someone taking two wickets in the first over, and then does not get to bowl the next one? Had Varun Chakravarthy picked [up] the third wicket or dismissed Glenn Maxwell, this game could have been over there and then.
"I'm happy an Indian captain didn't make that blunder because a lot of people would have got their daggers out had an Indian captain made that call.
"That is the most ridiculous captaincy I have ever seen. I can't explain that."
Morgan explained it by saying that he wanted to hold him back to blunt the impact of De Villiers, but can you really buy that from a captain who believes in "fearless" cricket? Or is that only when it comes to his batsmen? Answers on a postcard…
In the day's other game, at the Wankhede in Mumbai – a venue Morgan is seriously looking forward to transferring to for the Knight Riders' next game – Delhi Capitals chased 196 to beat Punjab Kings as Rishabh Pant's team recovered from their Chris-Morrising against Rajasthan Royals, mainly thanks to another breathtaking knock from Shikhar Dhawan.
Punjab's 196 was founded on an excellent opening stand of 122 from 12.4 overs between KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal as Lukman Meriwala's introductory over in the IPL disappeared for 20. But the 29-year-old left-arm seamer from Baroda had some revenge when he finally got rid of Agarwal, caught on the cover boundary, for 69 from 36 balls, the highlight of which was his consecutive sixes off Kagiso Rabada when he returned for a second spell.
Rarely has the South African, who took 30 wickets in last year's IPL and 25 in only 12 matches the year before, been treated so disrespectfully.
But Shikhar was equally disrespectful of the Kings attack. He smashed 92 off 49 balls with 13 fours and two sixes as Mohammed Shami was plundered for 53 from his four overs. Steve Smith was brought in to bat at No 3 for his first appearance of the season but he top-edged a cut off fellow Australian Riley Meredith to third man for nine. Marcus Stoinis hit the winning runs as Delhi reached their target with six wickets and 10 balls to spare.
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