Royal Challengers Bangalore seemed to have out-thought, out-planned and out-executed Mumbai Indians until Anil Kumble dropped Dwayne Bravo off his own bowling in the 15th over, a catch that would have reduced Mumbai to 86 for 6. Bravo, Saurabh Tiwary and Harbhajan Singh added 79 more to the rest of the innings. Mumbai's bowlers then just about hung in to prevail in a last-ball finish, but their team was knocked out of the tournament.
Rahul Dravid's anchorman 71 off 58, and Virat Kohli's 24-ball 47 that almost deserved to be on the winning side, had brought 40 off 18 down to 13 required off the last over. Zaheer Khan - a former IPL team-mate - began with two superb slower short balls, but he also missed two yorkers by a few inches. Kohli smashed those low full tosses for leg-side boundaries. Three required off the last ball. Another yorker went wrong. Low full toss. Kohli had done it twice, he just needed to repeat it, but the wrists turned a fraction of a second earlier. So hard had he swung, the leading edge kissed the sky and came down.
Ambati Rayudu held his nerve when a drop there would have produced a tie. Zaheer and Rayudu exulted, Kohli went down on his haunches. The man his technique is often compared to, Dravid, stood there, patted his back, consoled him, but it didn't seem to work.
Bangalore, though, will get another chance. Mumbai won't. In fact, the result doesn't change the course of the tournament much. The Bangalore-Lions game still remains a knockout affair. Bangalore need to win to force a three-way tie between themselves, Lions and Mumbai for the second semi-final slot from Group B. Kohli's late hitting, however, has made sure their net run-rate stays the best of the three, while Mumbai's ends worst.
When it comes to the Twenty20 environment, Trinidad & Tobago can improvise on a famous saying, and claim, "If Pollard doesn't get you, Bravo will." Especially when Bravo is dropped when on 1. That big Mumbai finish was exactly what Bangalore were trying to avoid when they held back Dale Steyn through the first 10 overs. As far as Steyn was concerned, he executed the plan perfectly. Charged up, he responded by inflicting a three-ball duck on Kieron Pollard, bowling two overs for five runs and two wickets.
The plan did involve some risk, but the Kumars at Nos. 1 and 2 started its perfect execution. Praveen took Sachin Tendulkar's wicket, Vinay took Rayudu's. Shikhar Dhawan and JP Duminy then got stuck, going from nowhere to nowhere. They soon fell, setting up the much-awaited contest between Pollard and Steyn.
In came slip and a short leg. Bouncer. Ducked under. Slower ball. Missed. Length ball, extra bounce, leading edge, gone. Soon Kumble had a chance to finish Mumbai off, but he missed a return catch. Bravo thanked Kumble by hitting him for two fours in the same over, and then launching him for two sixes and a four in his next. It was clean hitting with the typical Bravo flourish.
There is a risk of understating the performance from Tiwary, who didn't look intimidated at all, slapped a Steyn bouncer for a flat six, and followed it up with back-to-back fours. A high full toss in the 19th over ended Bravo's 17-ball 29, but that didn't slow Mumbai down as Harbhajan hit three boundaries to finish strongly.
Abu Nechim, the Assam seamer who was playing his first match of the tournament, started the turnaround in the chase, trapping Jacques Kallis lbw with his second ball. He managed to get movement and extra bounce from the lively Kingsmead pitch.
On a night when Lasith Malinga and Zaheer were stable at best, Bravo utilised the conditions best, following Kallis' wicket with those of Robin Uthappa and Ross Taylor. When Harbhajan removed Cameron White with a yorker in the 14th over, leaving Dravid and Kohli needing 66 off 37, it seemed the game was over.
Neither batsman is renowned for big hitting, and with Malinga and Zaheer to bowl three overs, big hitting was what was required. Kohli was then to endure a heartbreak. Ironically, though, those three extra runs wouldn't have mattered in the larger picture. Mumbai are still out, Bangalore still need a win.