Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent @PeterDellaPenna
Royal Challengers Bangalore 164 for 7 (Maxwell 57, Padikkal 40, Henriques 3-12) beat Punjab Kings 158 for 6 (Agarwal 57, Rahul 39, Chahal 3-29) by six runs
Virat Kohli's quest for a maiden IPL title before stepping down as captain of Royal Challengers Bangalore at the end of the season is still very much alive after his side became the third team to clinch a playoff berth in IPL 2021, holding on for a six-run win over Punjab Kings in Sharjah. Choosing to bat first, Kohli helped lay a solid foundation in tandem with Devdutt Padikkal by adding 68 for the first wicket before Glenn Maxwell powered on further with a half-century to take RCB to the highest total made by any side in Sharjah since the tournament resumed in September.
For the first half of the chase Kings looked like they would track it down, reaching 81 for 0 at the 10-over mark. But despite 57 from Mayank Agarwal as part of a 91-run opening partnership alongside orange-cap wearer KL Rahul, the wheels fell off soon after thanks to an inspired spell of legspin from Yuzvendra Chahal who claimed three wickets including Agarwal. By the time the final over came around, 19 runs were needed and purple-cap holder Harshal Patel had little trouble containing Kings lower order to secure victory.
WATCH - Chahal takes two wickets in the 16th over
Kings luckless in the field, with or without the umpires
Despite a wicketless powerplay, Kohli and Padikkal's partnership was at times a meandering one, and also had its share of luck. Kohli was dropped twice, on 9 and 10, while Padikkal was allowed to continue batting on 35 in controversial circumstances after Rahul's use of a DRS was unsuccessful despite UltraEdge showing a clear spike on a failed reverse sweep where the ball appeared to graze Padikkal's gloves on the way through to the keeper.
Moises Henriques finally broke the partnership and then some, taking three wickets in the space of seven balls in the 10th and 12th overs. Kohli was bowled for 25 by one that kept low. Dan Christian bagged a golden duck, mistiming a drive to backward point. And Padikkal was finally sent back for 40. This time there was no need for the third umpire to intervene as an attempted cut produced a thin edge that was well held by Rahul standing up to the stumps. Royal Challengers were under pressure at 73 for 3.
Maxwell tortures his former franchise
The Australian power hitter gave a handy reminder to his old team-mates about why he's such a valued resource in T20 cricket, hitting 57 off 33 balls. With AB de Villiers struggling to get going at one end, Maxwell dominated their 73-run partnership with a flurry of sixes, mostly off the slog sweep against the spin duo of Harpreet Brar and Ravi Bishnoi.
But it wouldn't have been Maxwell ball without a reverse at some stage and he executed one to perfection against Bishnoi in the 18th over to secure another boundary. He brought up his half-century off 29 balls and was dismissed only in the final over, by which time Royal Challengers had put up a strong total on the board, the best by any team in Sharjah this season.
Another excellent Kings platform goes to waste
Rahul might well become a chief lobbyist on behalf of the T10 brigade following his team's contrasting fortunes this season in their first 10 overs compared to their last 10. The Kings captain continued his run as the leading scorer in the IPL with another sharp burst at the top of the order in tandem with Agarwal. But once he fell for 39 off 35, the chase began to flounder.
Chahal built off the Rahul breakthrough by inducing a top edged sweep from Nicholas Pooran, dismissing him for 3 in the 13th over. Agarwal was another victim of the extra bounce in Chahal's legbreaks as a catch swirled over to short third man in the 16th over. Three balls later, Chahal capped his haul by defeating a flummoxed Sarfaraz for a golden duck. At 121 for 4 in 16, the Kings required rate of 11 per over through the last four proved to be a herculean task.
Now in addition to needing a victory in their final match, the Kings will need a series of other results to go their way to have any chance of securing the fourth and final playoff berth.