Bangalore storm into second round
The stakes were high, the task unambiguous: the winner would progress to the second round of the Champions League, the loser would to go home. And Jacques Kallis chose this stage to deliver a tremendous performance, one that ensured Bangalore's qualification, and Otago's elimination, from the tournament: his unbeaten half-century was the bedrock of a destructive batting exhibition, and his three-wicket opening spell knocked the stuffing out of the opposition's chase.
Bangalore's batsmen were barely troubled as they motored towards a formidable score. Their total of 188 was methodically constructed: the openers Robin Uthappa and Kallis denied their opponents the early breakthrough and built a launch pad, which Virat Kohli and Ross Taylor used to accelerate from during the final overs. Bangalore's innings was shaped by two half-century stands, 75 between Uthappa and Kallis, and 59 between Kallis and Kohli, and they left much of their ammunition - Rahul Dravid, Mark Boucher and Roelof van der Merwe - unused. Uthappa and Kohli were the aggressors during those partnerships but Kallis provided propulsion during the final overs and finished unbeaten on 73. Taylor made a late entrance and stole the limelight by clobbering 32 off 11 balls, ransacking 25 runs off the final over from Otago helpless bowlers.
It wasn't crash, bang and wallop from the word go though. Uthappa and Kallis took their time settling in on a pitch that was on the slower side, playing watchfully, choosing orthodoxy over adventure during the initial overs. And when the boundaries began to flow, they were results of proper batsmanship. Uthappa cover drove Neil Wagner on the up for his first boundary before targeting the wide long-on region for a four and a six off Dimitri Mascarenhas and Ian Butler. He then went straight, hitting with power twice over the bowlers' heads for fours. Bangalore scored 46 off the Powerplay, and more importantly had lost no wickets. Kallis had remained quiet during this phase but brought up the 50 partnership with a cut off Butler to the backward-point boundary.
Craig Cumming brought on his only specialist slow bowler - Nathan McCullum - in the ninth over and watched Uthappa dispatch the offspinner over midwicket for six, and reverse-sweep him for four. Relief for Otago, although fleeting, came from Aaron Redmond's legbreaks, when Uthappa got a leading edge and was caught by a diving Cumming at cover. Uthappa's departure brought in Kohli, whose 32 off 19 balls included scorching drives through cover and straight down the ground. He began the acceleration, but holed out to long-off, after which Kallis broke free from his anchor's role by lofting Butler and Wagner over the long-off boundary.
With Kallis taking charge it seemed as though Taylor, who received an unprecedented and massive cheer from the Bangalore crowd, would not get the opportunity to showcase his skills but that changed after he took strike for the last five balls of the innings. He pulled the first from Butler to the midwicket boundary, and deposited the second into the crowd behind long-off. The suffering was too much for Butler, who had been struggling with a knee problem, and he went off the ground, leaving Warren McSkimming the responsibility of bowling the last three balls. Taylor carted the first and last of those over the square-leg boundary, providing the innings a rocket-fuelled finish. Otago suffered because of the sameness of their bowlers - primarily medium-pace without quality spinners - but Bangalore had no such problems.
Although Kallis had made an invaluable contribution with the bat, he was overshadowed during the initial partnerships and at the end by Taylor's blitz. However, he came to the fore once again during his opening spell - four overs on the trot - which accounted for Otago's top three batsmen and effectively ended the contest. With clever and frequent changes of pace, Kallis struck a body blow in his second over when he foxed Brendon McCullum to hole out to mid-on. A ball later Kallis sent down a quick bouncer that had Redmond succumbing to cover.
Hamish Rutherford briefly lifted Otago's gloom by hitting Vinay Kumar for three fours in an over but Kallis returned to snuff out his innings with a slower ball and completed a maiden over as well. His outstanding figures of 3-1-6-3 were spoilt just a little by two boundaries in his final over but, by the time Kallis was finished with bat and ball, there was no way back for Otago. They crumbled thereafter, collapsing for 108, against a team that was determined not to become the first casualty of the Champions League Twenty20. Fittingly it was Kallis who performed the final act, catching Neil Wagner on the long-on boundary to spark off celebrations.
It's a hard road ahead for Bangalore, though, for their loss to the Cape Cobras means they won't be carrying forward any points to the next stage.
George Binoy is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo