Royal Challengers Bangalore 166 for 3 (Bharat 78*, Maxwell 51, Nortje 2-24) beat Delhi Capitals 164 for 5 (Shaw 48, Dhawan 43, Siraj 2-25) by seven wickets

What was essentially a dead rubber looked like slipping away from Royal Challengers Bangalore at 55 for 3 halfway into a chase of 165 against Delhi Capitals. But then two catches slipped through the hands of Shreyas Iyer and R Ashwin, and Glenn Maxwell made the most of the lives to set the scene for a blockbuster finish from KS Bharat.

It was still anybody's game when Royal Challengers needed 19 off 12 balls. Anrich Nortje, who had taken out both Virat Kohli and Devdutt Padikkal in his first two overs, stepped up once again, bowling a four-run penultimate over to leave Royal Challengers needing 15 off the final over, bowled by Avesh Khan.

Maxwell found the boundary off the first ball and followed it with a double to notch up his fourth half-century in his last five innings. The third ball was a terrific inswinging yorker which smashed Maxwell's boot, but he survived again because this had pitched outside leg stump. A leg-bye put Bharat on strike and the next ball was a swing and a miss. Two off the penultimate ball, thanks to a misfield from Axar Patel in the outfield, eventually left Royal Challengers needing six off the last ball. Avesh went searching for another leg-stump yorker, but ended up bowling a full-toss down the leg side for a wide.

Avesh whisked short fine leg back for the last ball and went for another yorker, but it came out as a full-toss again, this time on the stumps. Bharat lined it up and pumped it over long-on to provide a throwback to Arun Karthik's last-ball six for Royal Challengers in the Champions League T20 a decade ago.

Perhaps if Royal Challengers had batted first and adopted a no-holds barred batting approach like Mumbai Indians had done in Abu Dhabi, their slimmest of chances of making the top two might have stayed alive a tad longer. Match practice and fine-tuning aside, the game was dead from the moment they decided to bowl. Next, they will run into Kolkata Knight Riders in the eliminator, while Capitals will face Chennai Super Kings in the first qualifier.

0:40
WATCH - Bharat seals it with a six on the last ball
WATCH - Bharat seals it with a six on the last ball

The Dhawan-Shaw show
Virat Kohli had thrown the new ball to Maxwell, giving him a crack at Shikhar Dhawan, but the left-hander picked him off for 15 off eight. Prithvi Shaw, who had managed scores of 11, 10, 6, 18 in his first four innings in the UAE this IPL, hit form by driving and punching on the up in the powerplay, which yielded 55 runs overall for Capitals.

Shaw also lined up Yuzvendra Chahal for a pair of sixes, but the legspinner dangled one outside the batter's eyeline and found sharp dip to have him holing out to sweeper cover for 48 off 31 balls. Dhawan too had fallen by then, with Harshal Patel tricking him with his trademark loopy offcutter for 45 off 35 balls.

Having copped a George Garton beamer on his shoulder, Dhawan was spotted with an icepack after his dismissal and subsequently he didn't take the field in the chase.

3:53
Gambhir: Bharat did a fabulous job for RCB
Gambhir: Bharat did a fabulous job for RCB

The middle order doesn't show up
After Dhawan and Shaw put on 88 together in the first ten overs, the pitch slowed down, as did the rest of the Capitals batting line-up. They could muster only 76 in the second chunk of their innings, with Mohammed Siraj and the slower bowlers hiding the ball away from their swinging arcs. Dan Christian bounced out Rishabh Pant before Siraj had both Shreyas Iyer and Shimron Hetmyer holing out. Ripal Patel, who had retained his spot in the XI ahead of an overseas option, also couldn't get the ball away at the death, getting a run-a-ball seven.

Bharat, Maxwell punish sloppy Capitals
With the Royal Challengers openers falling cheaply, AB de Villiers came in as early as the third over and began a repair job with a run-a-ball 26. Axar dismissed de Villiers in the tenth over and could've got Maxwell (twice) soon after had Ashwin and Iyer had not dropped those chances. Having been reprieved on 6 and 16, Maxwell showed off his range once again, slogging and reverse-slogging his way to an unbeaten 51 off 33.

As for Bharat, he was a more sedate presence in the early exchanges against high pace, but then laid into Axar's left-arm darts, taking him for 25 off just nine balls.

With two right-handers in the middle, Ashwin bowled just a solitary over, which cost Capitals 11 runs. Ripal stepped in for Ashwin with his medium-pace, giving up 22 in his three overs. Nortje maintained his machine-line accuracy at the death, but Avesh had a rare off day as Bharat finished off the league phase of IPL 2021 with a last-ball six.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo