Bangalore sneak home in thriller
Royal Challengers Bangalore beat Chennai Super Kings with two balls and two wickets to spare to keep alive their semi-final hopes in a match that swung - rather, careened - between the sides.
Needing 130 to win, after Chennai's lower-order capitulation following Matthew Hayden's 38-ball 60, it seemed Bangalore would sail through. But by the end of the Powerplays, struggling at 33 for 3, the semi-final looked a distant dream. Ross Taylor then played a mature innings, unlike his attacking one against Kolkata Knight Riders, taking on the anchor role while Virat Kohli hunted for boundaries. The match had swung in Bangalore's favour at the end of the 19th over, largely because of a six from Praveen Kumar that left them needing just five off the last.
Taylor nearly undid his efforts by stepping out and wildly swinging at a shorter delivery from Jacob Oram only to get the top edge, which was caught by Dhoni running back halfway to the boundary. Praveen was joined by Vinay Kumar at the crease, with the equation now a run-a-ball. Praveen took a single off his first ball; Vinay Kumar flicked the next to wide of midwicket and the batsmen scrambled two. There was more drama to follow as Vinay Kumar, using a runner, cut the next ball to backward point and L Balaji misfielded after diving at the boundary. Bangalore were unsure if they had got four and the batsmen, after taking a single, pushed off for one more, before a sheepish Balaji signalled a boundary and the end of the game.
Though the climax was thrilling, Bangalore will know they made a meal of the chase after their bowlers had bowled Chennai out for an under-par total. They started badly but should have never let it get to the final over.
Albie Morkel struck in the second ball of the innings, trapping Jacques Kallis leg before for a duck though replays suggested Kallis was hit just outside the off stump. Rahul Dravid looked in good nick, driving Morkel behind square for a four and then cutting Sudeep Tyagi to third-man boundary. But when he tried to repeat the shot in the next ball, he misjudged the bounce and popped a catch to S Badrinath to backward point. Tyagi's next over went for 11 runs but Morkel, who had conceded three runs in his second, struck in his third: Robin Uthappa was trapped by one that came in and hit him on middle and leg. Morkel, like Kallis, bowled his quota on the trot, finishing with 2 for 13. He varied his length and the new batsmen - Kohli and Taylor - cautious after the early collapse, chose not to take any risks.
Kohli and Taylor collected the runs through singles. Kohli did cut and sweep the spinners for fours but couldn't beat the fielders when driving down the ground. The two added ten more than MS Dhoni and Hayden had managed - 20 - between the Powerplay and the strategy break.
Kohli survived a chance in the 13th over, when he hit Murali for four over mid-on and just out of reach of Hayden, who had run in to take the catch. The over turned into a tug of war between bat and ball after that; Murali followed the four with three dot balls - two of which beat Kohli - after which Kohli charged down the track and hit a six over midwicket. Another big six off Jakati in the next over pushed their run-rate over six. But just as Bangalore looked to be steadying their innings, Chennai yanked the mat from under their feet with two wickets in the space of six balls. Kohli pulled a short ball from Balaji over midwicket and Oram ran in from the boundary to take a tumbling catch. Mark Boucher then missed the doosra by Murali and edged a catch to Hayden at slip. Murali gave away only two runs in that over which also featured an un-Twenty20 field for the final two balls: a slip, short leg and leg gully were in place for the new batsman Roelof van der Merwe.
With Taylor and van der Merwe at the crease Bangalore held the initiative. But that slipped from their grasp with an unnecessary move from van der Merwe: after Taylor pulled Balaji for a six over midwicket, the two batsmen took a single only to see an overthrow go past them. Van der Merwe was late on the second run would still have made the crease at a stretch. However, he ran in sluggishly, not grounding his bat and was run out.
Bangalore live to bat another day but they'll have to work on it in the meanwhile. As will Chennai, who just imploded towards the end of the innings. Chennai crossed 100 in the 13th over but managed only 28 more in the next seven.
However the collapse was triggered by some tight bowling by Bangalore in the middle overs. Kallis were chiefly responsible for staunching the run flow with Kallis taking a two wickets in consecutive overs, including a maiden one.
Hayden had power-hit Chennai to 52 in the Powerplay overs and then looked to consolidate the score with Dhoni. Vinay Kumar and Praveen went for 28 runs in their first two overs as Hayden messed up their lengths by stepping out and swatting them over the fielders for boundaries. The run-rate was over nine an over even after the loss of two wickets but things began to crumble with Dhoni's fall. Dhoni tried going for a big shot but van der Merwe pulled off a stunning catch off his own bowling by diving to his wrong side. The fall of wickets hadn't affected Hayden's batting - he launched van der Merwe for a six over his head one ball after Dhoni's wicket - but he fell in the next over by Kumble, when he mistimed a pull and was caught by at the boundary by Vinay Kumar. After that, the other bowlers joined in tightening that noose: van der Merwe conceded three in his final over, B Akhil two off his first, Vinay Kumar and Praveen picked up a wicket each, while Kumble ended S Badrinath's agonising nine-ball stay.
In the end a few more runs lower down the order could have meant Bangalore's exit from the tournament.
Nishi Narayanan is a staff writer at Cricinfo