Kohli, Kumble take Bangalore to semis
It was nearly another heartbreak for Virat Kohli. Chasing a below-par total, thanks to Anil Kumble's four overs for 13 runs and Alviro Petersen's wicket, Royal Challengers Bangalore nearly messed it up, staying behind the required rate for 16 overs. Nerves began to show when Kohli ran Robin Uthappa out in the 15th over, and followed it up with plays-and-misses in the 16th. However, with 43 required off four overs, Kohli pulled Bangalore out of the hole he seemed to have dug them, hitting Ethan O'Reilly for six, six, and four. It was a cruise after that, making Bangalore the first IPL team to have made it to a Champions League T20 semi-final. Uthappa wasn't angry anymore.
Two nights ago, Kohli was down on his haunches, inconsolable after he fell just short of pulling off an improbable chase against Mumbai Indians. Then at least he had Rahul Dravid to pat his back. Tonight, after he called Uthappa for a non-existent second and then changed his mind, he was all alone, down on his haunches, until Cameron White came out to bat.
In the next over, Kohli top-edged one, refused a single to White, and was beaten twice. It was a gradual turn, but what had looked an easy chase, especially after a 53-run opening stand between Rahul Dravid and Manish Pandey, was now almost out of hand because there hadn't been the urgency earlier to score quickly.
Kohli, just 23 off 20 then, would have seen himself as part of the problem. He was about to become the solution. It all started with his favourite shot. O'Reilly missed a yorker by inches and Kohli flicked it off the pads for a flat six. A low full toss followed; dispatched over long-on. A length ball then, which went past extra cover for four. In three balls, the required rate was down to the original eight an over, and that Uthappa run-out was a distant memory.
The Lions were not so lucky with run-outs. Alviro Petersen and Vaughan van Jaarsveld were punishing Bangalore in a third-wicket stand when van Jaarsveld backed up for a second run that didn't exist. He had taken those two steps that ensure a second should there be a fumble. As it turned out, there was no fumble. But van Jaarsveld slipped while turning back and was run out. Lions were 74 for 3 at the end of that over, the eighth, but could manage only 59 in the next nine as Kumble's smart bowling and tactics choked their innings.
The run-out not only ended a partnership worth 54 off 26, it gave Kumble a look-in. Like Kohli, Kumble was looking for redemption of his own. It was when he dropped Dwayne Bravo in their previous game that they turned towards defeat. Tonight he was at the heart of Bangalore's comeback.
Kumble followed that run-out with an over that went for just four, and then introduced Kohli in an inspired move. Even though one over in between, bowled by Dillon du Preez, went for 10, Lions were finding it difficult to score off Kumble and Kohli. While Kumble gave Petersen and Neil McKenzie zero room, Kohli, a Chris Harris clone when bowling, mixed his cutters and wide yorkers well.
McKenzie's couldn't match the earlier run-rate, or one that was required for a challenging total. In the four overs following that run-out, Petersen, who was scoring at two runs a ball without taking risks, got to face just nine balls, and McKenzie scored just 15 off the other 15. The edginess pushed Petersen into a slog-sweep against Kumble. The predictable result was an uprooted off stump.
Kumble and Kohli refused to release the choke hold as Lions dragged towards 121 by the end of 16 overs. McKenzie continued to struggle, kept moving all around in the crease, and Dale Steyn's yorkers proved too good in the end. A frustrated McKenzie finally got run out for 39 off 35 before Frylinck added respectability to the total with two sixes in the last over.
The Lions would go on to add more respectability to it with spirited fielding and stable bowling, but it was to be Kohli's night.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo