Last-ball six takes RCB into semis
Royal Challengers Bangalore 215 for 8 (Dilshan 74, Kohli 70, Tait 5-32) beat South Australia Redbacks 214 for 2 (Harris 108*, Ferguson 70) by two wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Arun Karthik produced the six most important runs of his 15-match Twenty20 career off the last ball of the CLT20 league phase to propel Royal Challengers Bangalore past South Australia Redbacks in a game that had everything except for a Super-Over finish. It featured an astonishing century from Daniel Harris - only the third in Champions League history. It had a five-for from Shaun Tait, in a game where 429 runs came off 40 overs. It also featured sublime stroke play from Virat Kohli, who played his best T20 innings. It had strong helping hands from Callum Ferguson and Tillakaratne Dilshan.
It all boiled down to the last ball, off which six were needed, and Karthik stepped up to smash Daniel Christian into the stands beyond midwicket. The crowd went up as one, the RCB dug-out exploded in joy, and even the usually laidback Chris Gayle walked out shirtless with a broad smile.
In a game that unfolded like a Hitchcock whodunit, it was fitting that the winning blow came off the bat of someone who was playing only because AB de Villiers was injured. At the other end was S Aravind, the worst bowler of the day, who got close to redemption with a boundary off the third ball of that electric final over. Christian bowled a slower ball on the fourth, which Aravind slogged for two, making it seven needed off the last two. Aravind couldn't connect with the fifth, but the batsmen scrambled through for a bye. Six needed off one, and Christian delivered a slower ball as hittable as Chetan Sharma's infamous full toss to Javed Miandad in Sharjah. Karthik coolly stayed in his crease and heaved with all his might over midwicket to become a hero.
It was heartbreak for the Redbacks, who had somehow regrouped after a virtually unstoppable 100-run stand between Kohli and Dilshan off 8.5 overs. By the time Kohli fell, he had reduced the equation to 50 off the last five overs, but RCB's light-weight middle order gave the Redbacks a chance. Nathan Lyon piled on the pressure with a four-run 16th over, but Tait ceded the advantage with two sixes in the 17th, though he managed to dismiss Saurabh Tiwary. The next over from Aaron O'Brien also produced two sixes and a wicket, making it 18 required off 12 balls. Tait then lasered Dilshan's stumps with a stunning yorker and got Daniel Vettori to miscue, before completing his five-for with Raju Bhatkal's wicket. That set up the last-over climax, Christian blinked after five balls, and Karthik held his nerve to complete the first win for an IPL side against an Australian team.
The performances from Tait and Karthik dominated the ending, but the contest got its substance from Harris and Kohli. Both produced innings that had no business featuring in an unabashed exhibition for T20 batting. Harris' effort stood out for the shots he didn't play - he went almost 18 overs without trying to hit a six, and yet coasted to a century with time to spare. Kohli's was elevated by the shots he chose to play. Faced with an asking-rate nearing 11, and with Gayle dismissed, Kohli unfurled a series of astonishingly correct strokes.
Equally telling were the chalk-and-cheese support acts from Ferguson and Dilshan. With the spinners pulling things back after Harris' Powerplay boundary blitz, Ferguson took his time settling in before opening up in style. Dilshan, on the other hand, ignited RCB's chase with a series of outrageous strokes, which included a couple of trademark scoops.
Gayle was more subdued at the start, but he gradually found his range to muscle three sixes, before Michael Klinger caught him in the deep even as he collided grievously with Tom Cooper. Kohli walked in like he belonged in the cauldron, and opened his account with a pulled six through wide long-on. The slowness of the pitch and the variations of the Redbacks attack could not stop him from hitting through the line, and repeatedly in front of the wicket. He charged out to O'Brien and launched him with the turn over long-off, before carving Richardson for the shot of the day - an inside-out six into the stands behind extra-cover. He then gave Harris a taste of his own medicine, taking him for two sixes and three fours in the 13th over to put RCB on course for a heist.
The script was completely different in the first half of the match as, for the second night on the trot, an IPL side took a hiding from an Australian batsman. Aravind's pathetic lengths made this considerably easy - he finished with figures of 4-0-69-0, the second worst in T20 history - but that could not take any credit away from Harris.
The floodgates opened in the second over, when Aravind sent down a series of slow freebies angled into the hitting zone. Harris gratefully opened up his stance and carved boundaries straight, square and fine through the off side to set the Redbacks on their way. Kohli missed a run-out in the next over, and Harris celebrated by smashing seven of his next eight balls for fours. Vettori daringly persisted with Aravind for the fourth over, only to see him repeat his predictable lengths from either side of the stumps. Harris indulged himself to move to 43 off 19 balls by the fourth over, and Vettori was left playing catch-up for the remaining 16.
With the spinners coming on, Harris settled into cruise-mode, while Ferguson assuredly got his eye in. Just when the momentum seemed to be flagging a touch Aravind returned, and the Redbacks resumed their run-glut. Having taken two fours and a six off Aravind's 16th over, Ferguson thumped Nannes emphatically for a six off the first ball off the 17th. He holed out in the 18th over, prompting Harris to finally attempt a big hit. He pounded Bhatkal over midwicket for his first six, before dumping Nannes behind square-leg to bring up the century. Incredibly, Aravind got the 20th over, and Christian duly bludgeoned five more fours to take the Redbacks to 214.
Twenty overs later, Christian and Aravind had their roles reversed. And how.
Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo