Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) skipper Virat Kohli was absolutely ecstatic as his team made the playoffs for the second consecutive time in the Indian Premier League (IPL). RCB beat Punjab Kings by six runs on Sunday, at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, to become the third team to qualify for the knockouts, after Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Delhi Capitals (DC), in IPL 2021.
KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal got Punjab off to a solid start in the chase of 165, making RCB's total of 164 for seven look below-par. However, RCB fought back impressively in the back end of the innings with wickets from Yuzvendra Chahal and Harshal Patel, while finding able assistance from Goerge Garton, who adjusted his length superbly on the sluggish Sharjah track to restrict Punjab seven runs short of the target.
This is the second time that RCB have made the playoffs in consecutive seasons since 2011, as rightfully pointed out by Kohli in the post-match presentation, when they reached the knockouts in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Overall, they reached the playoffs on seven ocassions in 14 seasons.
"Feels amazing. After 2011, we haven't done it with games to spare. Eight wins out of 12 games is a great campaign. We have two more opportunities to finish in the top two. Should give us motivation to play even more fearlessly," said Kohli.
With two more games left for RCB, the franchise do have the opportunity to finish with 20 points in the league stage, but will need one between Chennai and Delhi to lose one of their remaining two games owing to their superior NRR compared to Bangalore. CSK will take on Delhi on Monday in the battle of the table-toppers, implying RCB will have the opportunity to finish in top-two positions in the points table.
Kohli was particularly in praise of the bowlers after their eighth win in the season.
"The resurgence of Siraj, ever since he has done well in Test cricket. Harshal's inclusion has been outstanding. Yuzi has chipped in, as has Shahbaz. Garton has come in. If the players don't step up, then the campaign goes off track," he said.