IPL’s eternal bridesmaids Royal Challengers Bangalore, have often come close, only to miss out on the proverbial cigars. Going into IPL 2022, Virat Kohli stepped down as captain. Having weathered the stresses of skippering on multiple fronts, India’s premier batsman was happy to be among the rank and file of the Red and Black army. Instead, Faf du Plessis would take charge. A veteran of many battles, the grizzled South African, hoped the RCB thinktank, would guide them to a maiden title.

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In an erratic campaign, the Challengers have blown hot and cold, ultimately scraping into 4th place courtesy of a bit of help from their friends in Mumbai. Starting as second-favourites in the Eden eliminator against Lucknow Super Giants, RCB will rely on their gun players to deliver them a shot at the trophy. Amidst all the build-up, however, now would be a good time to revisit their topsy-turvy run to the playoffs.

Kicking off against Punjab Kings, RCB’s bowlers would undo the good work of their batters, bowling a whopping 21 wides. Sent into bat, skipper Du Plessis did not faff around plundering 88 off 57 balls. Kohli’s quickfire 41* would help continue the momentum, with RCB eventually posting 205 for the loss of two wickets. If not for their indiscipline with the ball, the outcome would’ve been quite the opposite. Next up were Kolkata Knight Riders. In a low-scoring affair, RCB nudged past the post, scaling 129 with four balls to spare. Sri Lankan tweaker Wanindu Hasaranga was the star turn snapping four wickets for 20 runs. Wins against the Rajasthan Royals and Mumbai Indians would follow, the former marked by Dinesh Karthik’s spectacular 44* in a close run chase.

In the next four games, Bangalore registered two wins and two losses. In the southern derby, Chennai Super Kings’ target of 216 would be a challenge too far for Du Plessis’ men. Blown away by Shivam Dube’s 95* off 46 balls, RCB would fall short by 23 runs. At Wankhede against Delhi Capitals, Dinesh Karthik’s 66* made the difference. Chasing 190, Josh Hazlewood’s spell of 3/28 was crucial in keeping Delhi to 173/7. Lucknow Super Giants were brushed away by 18 runs. Skipper Du Plessis led the charge, belting 96 off 64 balls. Hazlewood would deliver again, sending down a sharp spell of 4/25. Sunrisers Hyderabad would thwart their progress, knocking them over for a paltry 68! Within eight overs, the chase was complete leaving RCB licking their wounds.

With losses against Rajasthan Royals and Gujarat Titans, their miseries would continue. Losing three on the bounce, RCB had four games to reverse their fortunes. Against Chennai, little-known Mahipal Lomror’s 42 (off 27 balls) and Du Plessis’ 38 helped set a target of 174. Medium-pacer Harshal Patel’s 3/35 would ensure a crucial victory for the Challengers. Rolling on to the Wankhede for yet another southern skirmish, RCB looked in the mood to punish strugglers Hyderabad. Electing to bat, Du Plessis smashed a fine 73*! Ably supported by Rajat Patidar and Glenn Maxwell, the Challengers racked up 192 for the loss of three wickets. The H-men- Hasaranga and Hazlewood– were instrumental in skittling out Hyderabad for 125. A crushing defeat to Punjab Kings would leave them on the brink of exit. Unable to contain Jonny Bairstow, PBKS boosted their own shot at a playoff berth, posting 209. In response, the Challengers could only muster 155. The defeat took progress out of their own hands. Requiring to defeat pacesetters Gujarat Titans in their final fixture, they would need Mumbai Indians’ to upset Delhi to help secure their progress to the playoffs.

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Against the odds, RCB held up their end of the bargain. Chasing 169, they would power home courtesy of a flaming 73 by Virat Kohli. Forlornly for much of the season, Kohli roared back in the nick of time. While moving into the 4th spot, it would only be theirs to keep when Mumbai edged Delhi in a tight run-chase.