Bangaluru: The question ahead of the IPL 2016 Qualifier 1 between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Gujarat Lions was how can the Suresh Raina-led Gujarat overcome the unstoppable Virat Kohli ?? After managing to post 158 on an uncharacteristically tricky M Chinnaswamy stadium, Bangalore, Gujarat found the answer in Dhawal Kulkarni, when the bowler got rid of Kohli for a second-ball duck – his first in 51 T20 innings – in the second over. Kohli went for a cut, but the back of length delivery didn’t bounce much and the RCB skipper played on to his stumps.
Kulkarni (4-1-14-4) would go on to rip apart RCB’s famed top-order. Chris Gayle (9) and KL Rahul (0) perished in Kulkarni’s second over which was a maiden. Ravindra Jadeja (4-0-21-2) chipped in with the wicket of Shane Watson (1) and Kulkarni then scalped Sachin Baby (0). After the end of powerplay overs, RCB were in a middle of a royal meltdown at 31 for 5.
Gujarat had made a stellar comeback after being nine for three to post a decent score, riding on Smith 41-ball 73. And now, the underdogs – despite topping the standings – coming in to the game, were in total command of the situation and looked set for their maiden final. For RCB, their hopes could only be pinned on a certain AB de Villiers. And the South African ‘Superman’ delivered with a brilliant unbeaten 47-ball 79-run knock to help RCB sneak through to their third IPL final by four wickets.
Generally known to be a batting paradise, the Bangalore track on Tuesday was dry, the ball gripped and turned and only de Villiers applied himself well and understood the pace of the wicket. Stuart Binny played a crucial innings 21 off 15 balls to hand RCB some kind of momentum. Binny was sent back by Jadeja and de Villiers then shifted gears.
Shadab Jakati (3-0-45-0) had a horrible day with the ball. De Villiers hammered 19 runs off the eight balls he faced from the Goa bowler. Binny had clobbered 14 off the five he faced from the offspinner. Gujarat started to lose the plot. Kulkarni was bowled out, so was Jadeja – their two best bowlers. Dwayne Smith came on and 14 runs where taken off him. Iqbal Abdulla (33* off 25 balls), who had taken two wickets in Gujarat’s innings, proved to be an unlikely ally for the South African. Batting for the first time in the tournament, the left-hander rotated the strike well and even managed to hit a few over the fence. His association with de Villiers accounted for a crucial and match-winning 91 runs for the sixth wicket.
De Villiers was in full swing and Praveen Kumar bore the brunt giving away a four and a six in the 17th over. Abdulla then sealed it with three consecutive fours off Dwayne Bravo and the target was overhauled two balls in to the 19th over, a total jail-break.
Earlier, Smith waged a lone battle with a valiant knock to lend some kind of respectability to the Gujarat total that finished at 158 all out. The rest of the Gujarat batting line-up, however, where guilty handing their wickets owing to poor shot selection.
Kohli the batsman has not put a foot wrong this season and Kohli the skipper did everything right on Tuesday. He introduced Abdulla in the second over and the offspinner obliged with the wickets of openers Aaron Finch (1) and Brendon McCullum (1). McCullum danced down to a length ball only to loft the ball to AB de Villiers at long off, while Finch was undone by a sharp turn, edging one to Chris Gayle at first slip. Kohli then handed the ball to Watson and the Australian scalped Gujarat skipper Raina (1) with a bouncer.
Dinesh Karthik and Smith started Gujarat’s rebuilding process, albeit in a slow manner. The duo combined for 85-run stand for the fourth wicket before Karthik (26) went for an ill-advised scoop and lost his stumps to Chris Jordan. Smith continued to slog and notched up his third fifty of the season, but perished trying to muscle an outside off delivery from Chahal over the long-on fence, only to find Kohli. Gujarat lost wickets in a heap, yet managed to score 54 runs in the last five overs, at the expense of six wickets.
Brief Scores: Royal Challengers Bangalore 159 for six (de Villiers 79*, Abdulla 33*; Kulkarni 4/14) beat Gujarat Lions 158 (Smith 73, Karthik 26; Watson 4/29) by four wickets