Robin Uthappa's blitz floors Chennai
"I'm just an ordinary cricketer who is working hard," said Robin Uthappa during the mid-innings break. His 38-ball 68 that rescued Royal Challengers Bangalore's innings, however, was anything but ordinary. Uthappa's eleventh-hour blitz helped his team recover from a shaky start and sluggish middle overs, after which Bangalore's bowlers throttled Chennai Super Kings to move to the top of the points table.
Chennai took wickets during the early and middle overs but it was the final 19 deliveries of Bangalore's innings, where Uthappa blazed away, that made the difference. Dropped on 5 and 25, Uthappa helped Bangalore take 52 runs off them, lifting his team from 119 after 17 overs to 171 for 5, when at one stage 150 looked difficult.
It was the speed and power with which Uthappa collected his runs that was dazzling: his last 39 came off ten balls. The over that swung the momentum Bangalore's way was the penultimate one, in which Uthappa - whose improvisation makes him the ideal Twenty20 batsman - struck three successive sixes off L Balaji to ransack 24 from six balls.
Until that explosion, Bangalore had struggled. From the time their talisman opener Jacques Kallis was bowled for 19 in 4.4 overs, ending a splendid run of four unbeaten innings, the home side failed to overcome Chennai's bowlers. On a juiced-up surface, an eagerly-awaited contest began with Chennai's new-ball duo wondering just what was needed to make a breakthrough. They thought they had success in the first over, when a peach of a delivery from Albie Morkel appeared to shave the outer edge of Kallis' bat, but it was not to be.
Manish Pandey rode his luck, following up an inside-edged four to fine leg with a top edge that dropped between two fielders, and then Kallis charged Morkel, slashing a thick outside edge that was lost in the lights by L Balaji at third man. Off the very next delivery, Kallis edged Morkel wide of a diving slip for four more.
Once Kallis went for 19, missing a straight one from Balaji, Bangalore's innings lost direction. Pandey continued to live dangerously without imposing himself. Then for the second time a wicket immediately followed a boundary. Rahul Dravid rocked back and dispatched Muttiah Muralitharan's fifth delivery for four; the sixth was a topspinner that pitched on middle and leg and beat the bat to crash into the stumps.
When the strategic time-out rolled around - that's the pace at which the innings panned out - Chennai had restricted Bangalore to their poorest start yet, 61 for 2. That soon became 63 for 3 when Pandey slogged Murali and was held by Suresh Raina at mid-on. However, Chennai proceeded to reprieve Uthappa and conceded substantial ground.
Confident after Uthappa's heroics, Bangalore began snuffing out the chase. Praveen Kumar has a knack of getting early wickets and troubling left-hand batsman, and he got Parthiv Patel to edge one in the first over. Chennai struggled during the Powerplay, finishing the six-over block on 29 for 1. Matthew Hayden called for the Mongoose immediately after and hit Kallis for three consecutive fours, but he and George Bailey were unable to get Anil Kumble away. Mixing flippers and googlies exceptionally, Kumble kept a check on runs and the pressure resulted in Hayden being run out by Rahul Dravid's underarm hit.
That breakthrough brought another, and R Vinay Kumar's perfect seam position dismissed Bailey for a woeful 18 from 27 balls. Vinay struck a bigger blow in his next over when he got Suresh Raina to slash to Kallis at third man, and then Kumble sent back M Vijay. The innings never recovered after four wickets had fallen for 17 runs. Vinay went for a few runs but finished with a four-wicket haul to help Bangalore surge ahead of Mumbai Indians in the points table.
Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo