Ton-up Kohli hails Moeen for crucial win

Virat Kohli

KOLKATA — Virat Kohli scored his first IPL century of the year, then paid tribute Saturday to Royal Challengers Bangalore teammate Moeen Ali for setting up a crucial second win of the season.

“Moeen changed the game completely and that allowed me to play my game,” said the India captain, who completed his 100 on the penultimate ball of the Bangalore innings against Kolkata Knight Riders.

While Kohli’s 58-ball century anchored the Bangalore innings Friday, England all-rounder Moeen blitzed the Kolkata spinners, making 66 off 28 balls — including six sixes and five fours.

With Bangalore needing to up the run rate, Moeen hit the second ball he faced off left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav into the long-on stands for six.

In the 16th over, he hit Kuldeep — who he will have to face in the World Cup in June — for three sixes and two fours. Kuldeep then dismissed his rival with the last ball of the over.

Bangalore was suffering with veteran South African star AB de Villiers rested because of illness but through Kohli and Moeen made an impressive 213-4 off their 20 overs.

No team has ever successfully chased a target this big at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens, and the Knight Riders got to only 203-5.

Nitish Rana made an unbeaten 85 while Andre Russell hit two fours and nine sixes in a 25-ball 65 before being run out off the penultimate ball.

Kohli also praised veteran South African pace bowler Dale Steyn who has joined the team this week to replace injured Australian Nathan Coulter-Nile.

The 35-year-old Steyn took the crucial wickets of Kolkata opener Chris Lynn and then No. 3 Shubman Gill to hobble the home side’s response.

“Steyn getting those crucial wickets was important for us. I think picking up wickets in the powerplay is crucial as it sets the tone for the rest of the innings,” said Kohli.

Smith replaces Rahane as Rajasthan captain

Struggling Indian Premier League side Rajasthan Royals Saturday named Steve Smith as their new captain despite the Australian being barred from leading the national team over a ball-tampering scandal.

Smith, who along with compatriot David Warner missed the 2018 IPL because of the scandal, will replace India’s Ajinkya Rahane.

“Ajinkya has done a terrific job over the last year and a half,” Smith said after winning the toss in his first game as leader against Mumbai Indians in Jaipur.

“The owners thought there should be a change in the leadership, and he’ll be part of the leadership group as well,” Smith added.

The former Australia captain has made his way back into the national team for the upcoming World Cup but cannot take on formal leadership responsibilities for another year.

Smith has scored 186 runs in seven IPL games, including a 73 not out. The 2008 champions are seventh in the eight-team table with just two wins.

The team management are gambling on Smith boosting confidence to get the side to the play-offs.

“Steve is one of the most innovative and successful captains in the world, in all formats of the game,” said Rajasthan’s head of cricket Zubin Bharucha.

“We are confident he can lead the Royals to success.” — Agencies