Another win, but bowling a worry for Bangalore
Another day, another 200-plus target chased down at the Chinnaswamy. And this time Royal Challengers Bangalore got there with time to spare. Fans trooping out of the stadium after the game weren't re-enacting the heart-stopping final shot as they had two days ago after the South Australia match, but the biggest crowd of the tournament lapped up the entertainment - the endless stream of sixes, the extended fireworks after the win, and the flag-waving victory lap from the team.
The two biggest stars in the home team delivered: Chris Gayle added another innings to his year of big-hitting that could end up being the gold standard for domestic Twenty20 batting, and Virat Kohli again showed you could score two runs a ball without resorting to slogging - highlighted by four fours off Mitchell Starc in the sixth over.
The fans were cock-a-hoop and the team exhilarated after storming to the final despite the initial mis-steps in the tournament. Even the fielding, a constant source of frustration for captain Daniel Vettori and coach Ray Jennings, was markedly better. Big question marks remain, though, over the bowling, especially the fast bowling.
On Friday, part-time offspinner Tillakaratne Dilshan, who hasn't been called on to bowl all tournament, was outstanding with the new ball, surrendering only ten runs in his four-over spell. Still, the Royal Challengers' bowling caved to allow New South Wales to power past 200. It may be a flat track, the outfield may be quick, and the boundaries relatively short, but the bowling has rarely inspired confidence throughout the campaign - even when Gayle had provided the insurance of a 207-run target against Somerset, the match was evenly poised halfway through the chase.
The biggest worry for the Royal Challengers is the form of Australian fast bowler Dirk Nannes. In the absence of the injured Zaheer Khan, Nannes was expected to be the pace spearhead who would help out up-and-coming medium-pacers like S Aravind and Abhimanyu Mithun. Instead after five matches, he has a double-digit economy-rate, has just one wicket, has bowled the most wides in the tournament and his average stands at an utterly unflattering 198.
He can still touch 90mph, bowl a toe-crushing yorker and surprise batsmen with his bouncer, but those skills have been sighted too few times as his inconsistent lines and lengths have been routinely punished by the opposition. Twice on Friday, he managed to fool David Warner, who was powering to a second successive Twenty20 century, with a slower ball that leaves the left-hander, but on both those deliveries were preceded by full ones that were clobbered for six by Warner.
As for the other pace options, Mithun was discarded after one poor game, against the Warriors. Aravind began reasonably well, but has been in meltdown over the past two matches. Against South Australia, there were at least three boundaries in each of his overs as he finished with 0 for 69, the second most expensive spell in Twenty20 history. Against NSW, the damage was relatively lesser (55 runs) and he was strangely entrusted with the final over, which went for 23, though Vettori hadn't bowled out. This after Dan Christian had clouted him for 24 in the final over two days ago.
Vettori defended the bowling, though he acknowledged that improvement was needed. "We've obviously bowled well enough," he chuckled after the win over New South Wales. "It's hard to sum up, you come off the field disappointed, having gone for 200, you have to be realistic and say, 'It's an incredibly tough wicket to bowl on, the ball seems to travel.' So if you can keep them below 200, you have done a good job."
Warner bludgeoned an unbeaten 135 in Chennai earlier this week, but generally the surface there has been tough to score on, and bowlers have had more of a say than in Bangalore. "There are a lot of disappointed bowlers in the room, we have to make sure we're better than that on the Chennai wicket," Vettori said. "It's probably going to be a little easier for the bowlers, but we've got to be better, we've got to support the batsmen."
The Royal Challengers fans won't be complaining though if the bowlers flop again on Sunday and the team makes it a hat-trick of successful large chases.
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo