AB de Villiers powers RCB in to the finals : With an unbeaten 79* runs off just 47 balls with 5 fours and 5 sixes, at a strike rate of 168.08 and a couple of good partnerships coming in at the right time, Abraham Benjamin de Villiers helped his team, Royal Challenger Bangalore (RCB), make an entry into the title clash round for a third time.
Asked to chase a modest 159 runs in 20 overs, RCB were in dire straits losing five wickets – the skipper and the most successful batsman in this season, Virat Kohli (0), world’s most explosive batsman, Chris Gayle (9), the consistent performer, wicket-keeper, KL Rahul (0), Shane Watson (1) and the young Sachin Baby (0) with only 29 runs on the board in 5.3 overs.
Of the five wickets that fell, four of them (Kohli, Gayle, Rahul and Sachin) were claimed by the medium pacer, Dhawal Kulkarni, who ended with an impressive bowling analysis of 4-1-14-4.
Stuart Binny (21) joined de Villiers in the middle and they both added 39 runs in 4.1 overs for the sixth wicket. Both the batsmen went after the left-arm spinner Shadab Jakati, who gave away 18 runs in his first over.
When the going was good, in the 10th over, Ravindra Jadeja bowled one outside the off-stump. Binny tried to sweep but missed the line and was wrapped on the front pad.
On the appeal being made, the on-field Umpire, AK Chaudhury, felt that the ball would have hit the stumps and declared Binny, ‘OUT’, leg-before wicket. However, the television replays showed the ball that had pitched outside the off-stump, would have safely sailed into the wicket-keeper’s gloves, without disturbing the stumps.
As the young Iqbal Abdullah joined de Villiers, who was batting on 28 runs, in the middle, RCB needed 91 runs from 62 deliveries.
Bowling the 11th over (his 2nd), Jakati gave away 29 runs in his two overs, helping RCB to reach 81 runs for the loss of 6 wickets in 11 overs.
Meanwhile de Villiers went on a rampage and brought up his half century (his 6th in this season) in 33 balls with 4 fours and 2 sixes.
The duo put on an unbeaten 91* runs partnership in 8.4 overs for the seventh-wicket and helped their team win the encounter by 4 wickets with 10 balls to spare.
Abdullah notched up an unbeaten 33* runs off 22 balls with 3 fours and a six. He had also picked up 2 wickets, giving away 38 runs in four overs.
Jakati ended up with a dismal analysis of 3-0-45-0 that clearly took the game away from the Lions.
Earlier, put into bat, Gujarat Lions (GL) had a disastrous start losing Brendon McCullum (1), Aaron Finch (4) and Suresh Raina (1) with just 9 runs on the board in 3.4 overs.
A sensible fourth-wicket partnership of 85 runs in 10.1 overs between Dinesh Karthik (26) and Dwayne Smith (73) helped them reach closer to the three-digit mark.
Later a seventh wicket partnership of 30 runs between Eklavya Dwivedi (19) and Dwayne Bravo (8), helped GL to finish their innings with 158 runs in 20 overs.
Shane Watson caused the maximum damage on GL, claiming the wickets of Raina (1), Jadeja (3), Bravo (8) and Dwivedi (19), giving away 29 runs in his spell of 4 overs.
Chris Jordan also claimed 2 wickets in his four-over spell, giving away 26 runs in the process.
RCB has now entered the title clash for the third time. On the two earlier occasions they ended as ‘runners-up’. However, looking at the manner the batsmen are performing, though they have a weak bowling attack, the team might end up ‘third time lucky’.
Now they have a clear 4-day gap to relax, regroup, strategise and await the winner of the second qualifier, going in for the final assault.
Speaking at the post-match presentation, the Player of the Match, AB de Villers, said, “ I was very, very nervous to be honest. I know if I was at the end, we would be close. The one boundary just cleared the fielder [Finch] and I saw the ball well from then. I attacked Dwayne Smith; Virat said the weather was bad. This crowd is the loudest I have heard in my life… We went down in the first half of the tournament, but we have turned it around.”
Visibly dejected Suresh Raina said, “AB batted really well. We bowled well upfront. We bowled well in the middle It is a small ground and we did not get wickets in the in-between overs. Smithy and Dwivedi batted well. 160 was defendable. D Smith made crucial runs.”
A highly elated and excited Virat Kohli said, “ I don”t believe that I am standing here as the winning captain. That ends the debate who is the best. I bow down to the big man [AB]. Come the big game, AB stands up. One of the best knock under pressure. Really happy for him. We have played good cricket coming into the playoffs. Today, the top order did not do well. I could see the opposition was worried about AB. Credit to Abdulla as well. Terrific composure from the young guy. The ball stopped early but eased in the second innings. It couldn”t be a better scripted story for us: playoffs in Bangalore and final in Bangalore. This one is for the people of Bangalore.”
Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) take on Sun Risers Hyderabad (SRH) in the Eliminator at Delhi. The winner gets to play GL in the second qualifier.