This was Chokers' Day. A few hours after the Mumbai Indians collapsed from a winning position, thereby denting their semi-final chances, the Chennai Super Kings outdid them as panic struck at the MA Chidambaram Stadium. The Bangalore Royal Challengers seemed certain to crash to their sixth successive defeat but even they might struggle to fathom how they pulled off this robbery.
It was one-way traffic for most of the game. Chasing a modest 127, Chennai appeared to be in cruise control at 60 for no loss, and later at 85 for 2, but Stephen Fleming's dismissal induced some panic. Anil Kumble's inspirational 3 for 14, the best figures for Bangalore in the IPL, played a part before Dale Steyn turned the heat on the lower order. The pitch hardly played a part in this low-scoring match - one where both sets of batsmen tried their best to outdo themselves in throwing it away.
Chennai are still in with a good chance of making the semi-finals but this shock defeat yet again exposed their batting's frailty. Fleming and Parthiv Patel got them off to a rollicking start, cutting and pulling with ease, and there appeared to be no demons in the pitch. Fleming was in fine touch, even against spin, but he refused to ride his luck after Vinay Kumar bowled him off a no-ball. He was out two balls later - sweeping a fast one from Kumble straight into the hands of B Akhil at deep square leg.
That was enough to open up the weaknesses in the middle order. Chennai have been over-reliant on S Badrinath and Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the two frittered it away, triggering a wave of recklessness. Dhoni, who promoted himself to No.3, struggled with his timing before a frustrated loft landed in Kumble's hands at long-on. Badrinath tried a perilous sweep against Kumble, one where he moved across the stumps, and he was to regret it soon as the ball hit him plumb in front.
Albie Morkel and S Vidyut fell to Steyn's pull-trap - both top-edges that reeked of complacency against a bowler who was cranking it up to 145kph - and one only needed to look at the Bangalore fielders' expression to understand how surprised they were. The startling freeze ended amid farcical scenes - Suresh Raina appeared to be in a daze against his Uttar Pradesh state-mate, Praveen Kumar, and even declined a single when they needed an improbable 16 off 5 balls.
Bangalore were pleasantly stunned to end up as party-poopers. Their batsmen let them down earlier in the day with an insipid display. One might have expected them to express themselves more freely, now that they're out of contention for a semi-final slot, but they continued to plumb the depths.
Manpreet Gony and Morkel led a purposeful Chennai bowling effort, utilising the nip in the air, and were backed up by some electric fielding and catching. Bangalore, who chose to bat, never managed any sort of momentum - they even endured a 44-ball phase without a boundary - and the fact that they were the slowest side to reach a 100 summed up the inertia.
Gony has enhanced his reputation with every game and it was some sight to see the crowd chant his name in unison. He struck with his fourth ball: pitching it short of a length and angling away from the right-hander, he induced an edge from Jacques Kallis. He forced another edge out of Shreevats Goswami - Gony's timely maiden forced him into an indiscreet drive in the bowler's next over. Goswami, rooted to the crease, nicked to the wicketkeeper and walked even as the umpire, I Shivram, failed to detect the edge.
Virat Kohli and Misbah-ul-Haq were undone by a couple of sensational catches - Morkel back-pedalling and completing a skier inches from the square-leg boundary, hurting his head in the process, and Parthiv Patel, behind the stumps, pulling off a full-length dive to complete a one-handed take.
It was again left to Rahul Dravid to survey the debris and he took his time to consolidate. Five fours reeled off his bat towards the end but Mark Boucher's dismissal - just when it appeared as if they would string together a partnership - hurt them. Dravid couldn't last the distance - Dhoni pulled off a fine catch at cover - and the tail didn't have much of a chance with Morkel keeping it straight. Kumar's 11-ball 21 was a feeble attempt at making a match out of it but little would he have imagined bowling the last over to win his side the game.