Gujarat Lions v Royal Challengers Bangalore, IPL 2016, Qualifier 1, Bangalore May 24, 2016

Royal Challengers in final after de Villiers' rescue act


Royal Challengers Bangalore 159 for 6 (de Villiers 79*, Abdulla 33*, Kulkarni 4-14, Jadeja 2-21) beat Gujarat Lions 158 (Smith 73, Watson 4-29, Abdulla 2-38) by four wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

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Agarkar: Every time AB is at the pitch, the game is never over

Tumbling wickets. A high but not out-of-reach asking rate. One specialist batsman at the crease, with only the lower order for company. An atypically dry and grippy pitch provided the conditions for such a situation - usually more common in 50-overs cricket than in T20 - to arise in the first Qualifier of IPL 2016. AB de Villiers was the specialist batsman, and when Iqbal Abdulla joined him in the 10th over of Royal Challengers Bangalore's chase of 159, they needed 91 to win off 62 balls with four wickets in hand.

The Chinnaswamy surface - still good to bat on, but slower than usual - had torn up the script that the match had been expected to follow. There was no uncontrollable torrent of run scoring from either set of top-order batsmen. Gujarat Lions were 9 for 3 after being sent in. Then in the chase, Royal Challengers lost Virat Kohli for a duck and slipped to 29 for 5. Then, when Ravindra Jadeja had Stuart Binny lbw sweeping - though replays showed ball hitting pad marginally outside off stump - they were 68 for 6.

It began drizzling soon after Abdulla's entrance, with Royal Challengers needing 63 from 36 balls. De Villiers was at the non-striker's end. Abdulla, on 8 off 14, slashed at a gentle, back-of-a-length ball from Dwayne Smith, and missed. Kohli - who had struggled to contain his temper right through the game - gestured angrily from the dugout, telling Abdulla to take a single and give de Villiers the strike.

Abdulla steered the next ball to deep point. De Villiers, on 47, faced Smith now. He stepped down the pitch, Smith shortened his length, and a tennis-style flat-bat hit flew to the straight boundary. The next ball was fuller, and de Villiers miscued his lofted hit, skewing it high, with the outside half of his bat. It was a rare mis-hit in an innings of surface-defying fluency. It may have been caught at long-off in a bigger ground, but it cleared the leaping Aaron Finch in Bangalore.

It seemed like a sign. This would be de Villiers' day. On strike to the first ball of the next over, he shuffled across to off stump even before Shadab Jakati released his left-arm dart. Having covered the line, he quickly sunk to one knee and swung the ball away over the square leg boundary. When Abdulla swatted a mis-hit six of his own later in the over, Royal Challengers had the final in their sights, needing only 35 off 25. They got home with 10 balls left to play, with de Villiers having just enough time to unfurl a couple more spectacular shots, the pick of them a reverse-sweep off a Praveen Kumar delivery pitching outside leg stump. The win took Royal Challengers into the final, while Gujarat Lions will have another crack at it when they take on the winner of Wednesday's Eliminator between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders.

Abdulla played a key role with the ball too, dismissing Brendon McCullum and Aaron Finch in the second over of Lions' innings after Kohli had sent them in. Kohli may have used his left-arm spinner that early simply because two right-handers were opening for Lions, and two left-handers were waiting in the middle order, but he may also have observed that the pitch was unusually dry.

Whatever the case, he had extra cover on the rope and mid-off in the circle for McCullum, and the charging New Zealander failed to reach the pitch of the ball, and sharp turn forced him to slice wider than intended, into the hands of the fielder at long-off. Finch closed his bat-face too early three balls later, and the ball popped up to slip. When Shane Watson bounced Raina out in the fourth over, Lions were 9 for 3, sinking even before the contest had really begun.

Dwayne Smith had swapped batting slots with Finch in Lions' last game, against Mumbai Indians, and had looked in fluent touch while making a calm, unbeaten 37 to steer them home in a chase of 173. He struck the ball just as well here, in a more difficult situation, picking up a pair of boundaries off Abdulla early in his innings, sitting back and pouncing when he dropped marginally short, and following up with a hooked six off Chris Jordan.

But the effect of a poor Powerplay - Gujarat only made 23 in that period - rippled through the rest of their innings. Lions' run rate remained under six an over even after Smith and Dinesh Karthik plundered 16 off the 10th, bowled by Yuzvendra Chahal. It was still under seven when they tonked Abdulla for 17 in the 13th over. Karthik fell in the 14th, middling an attempted fine-leg scoop onto his leg stump, Ravindra Jadeja followed in the 16th, and Smith - having hit two more leg-side sixes in that time - holed out in the 18th.

The runs still kept coming, Watson conceding 21 and picking up two wickets in an incident-packed 19th, and Lions scored 100 in their last 10 overs.

A total of 158 still looked inadequate given Royal Challengers' batting strength, but Dhawal Kulkarni had run a battering ram through their top order within four overs of the chase. First, Kohli played on, trying to cut without moving his feet. Then Gayle, pushed back with a series of short balls, swung across the line of a slower ball and missed. Then came an all-format jaffa that swerved away from just short of a good length and induced KL Rahul to edge to slip.

Jadeja then got in the act, getting the ball to stop on Watson, who swatted across the line too soon. And when Sachin Baby slapped Kulkarni straight to short cover, Royal Challengers were gasping for air, the Powerplay not yet done. But they still had de Villiers.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Yuvi on May 27, 2016, 8:35 GMT

    You cant be complacent against RCB if any of these (Kohli, AB, Gayle) are still on the crease.. Kohli and AB are currently word class players of this century with immense experience and this is what comes handy.. They have been under these circumstances 'n' number of times and know how to pull back keeping their head cool.. They are gonna change the dynamics of the game in a matter of 4-5 overs..

    Gujarat Lions should have induced attacking fielding against ABD rather than taking wickets on the other side..

  • Yuvi on May 27, 2016, 8:28 GMT

    You cant be complacent against RCB if any of these (Kohli, AB, Gayle) are still on the crease.. Kohli and AB are currently word class players of this century with immense experience and this is what comes handy.. They have been under these circumstances 'n' number of times and know how to pull back keeping their head cool.. They are gonna change the dynamics of the game in a matter of 4-5 overs..

    Gujarat Lions should have induced attacking fielding against ABD rather than taking wickets on the other side..

  •   Tim Campbell on May 26, 2016, 7:00 GMT

    Why does every single match report with McCullum in the side start with either 'McCullum fails' or 'McCullum scores 20 to win the match'. I love Baz, but the fixation from the reporters has to stop! It's T20, and batsman that aren't Kohli and ABD fail all the time, in this match the entire top order failed, but peple focus on McCullum.

  • Krishen on May 25, 2016, 13:15 GMT

    There is no merit in arguments made by some that GL has a weak middle order/had match in the pocket/lost the match due to captaincy. GL made a below potential start (9 for 3) while batting but recovered to 158 through excellent batting by Smith supported by others. This score was about 30 runs short of a strong total against outstanding batting line up of RCB. No team can have a match in the pocket till players like Kohli, ABD are at the crease. GL put in a spirited fight for defending the score through excellent bowling by Kulkarni & excellent captaincy. One of the GL bowlers had an off day. Even Chahal who gave away 16 runs in his 2nd over was given 2 more overs after a break by RCB. In the end exceptional batting by ABD took RCB to a win. A big difference was made by ABD batting till the end. This performance from ABD is not surprising as he is one of the greatest all time batsmen in history of the game.

  • manojg9623067 on May 25, 2016, 12:18 GMT

    Lions vs Ab and d superman stamps his authority.. The best ever IPL innings considering d match n d pitch n quality of the opposition.. Man he's jus born for cricket..

  • J on May 25, 2016, 11:22 GMT

    I think Gujrat played very well, considering this was their first season. They not only selected the right players but also put up spirited performances to be near the top . The only thing Gujrat could have bettered was the captaincy where raina was often found wanting at times - like yesterday when he continued with jakati or the occasions when while defending small scores, he introduced dhawal Kulkarni only towards the end by which time gujrat had almost lost the game.

  • Giridhar on May 25, 2016, 9:30 GMT

    DRS not in T20s, I guess its issue of time. short format where every minute is critical. but strategic timeouts can be avoided, or one per innings and introduce 1 review per innings, imo.

  • Harsh on May 25, 2016, 9:21 GMT

    A.B.DEvilliers played one of IPL's best ever innings to ressurect a team from the grave to register a famous win.Few batsmen have ever carried a game in IPL so single-handeldly on their shoulders as A.B. Gujarat Lions were on the verge of creating a major upset at 29-5 and simply could not work out a formula to curb Devilliers.After the 10t h over of the chase the complexion of the game completely changed like a thunderstorm interrupting a hot summer day.GL looked like burnt boats while RCB looked as though there was still plenty of petrol left in their tank.Neverthless some chinks in RCB's armoury were exposed proving they are not invincible and the law of averages may catch up with them in the final.Yesterday they were virtually playing with their backs in the wall just as they were precariously placed half-way down the tournament.In a similar situation probably they would not escape the next time around.

  • Jatish on May 25, 2016, 9:20 GMT

    Gujrat Lions lost this match because of Captain Raina. When Jakati was hit for 18 runs in his first over, why did he not have guts to take on RCB head on and come to bowl an over or two. What is the point of Captain being an all rounder and not bowl a single over. How many overs has he bowled in the 15 matches of this IPL ?

  • MANEESH on May 25, 2016, 8:49 GMT

    Why not have decision review system in Premier League ? Many issues will be resolved peacefully. Can thunderous performance be repeated in international matches by ABD, V.Kohli, other players ?

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