Royal Challengers Bangalore. My loyalty to Bangalore has grown stronger since I umpired the warm-up game, and I was happy on Thursday when they beat the Deccan Chargers, because it set them up to play in the semi I'd be watching.
No true individual brilliance, more of a team effort. I thought that Jacques Kallis' comeback after his first two overs was very important, and the five-over spell either side of the time-out was probably where the Chennai Super Kings lost the momentum.
One thing I would have changed about the match
Not much I'd change, maybe have the players in my fantasy team perform better! Overall this was a very satisfying game for all followers of the Royal Challengers.
Face-off I relished
Albie Morkel vs Kallis. Two of the best allrounders in the game, two South Africans, and two who can win any game on any given day. Contrary to expectations, Morkel outdid Kallis with the bat, but Kallis made a big impression with the ball. Shared spoils, methinks.
As I was leaving the stadium I'm pretty sure I walked past Deepika Padukone. It was certainly a celebrity trying to slip through the crowd without being swamped (The bodyguards gave it away).
As the game was drawing to its conclusion, the whole squad of the Royal Challengers stood up, and linked arms, waiting to celebrate. It was a hugely symbolic moment for me, the team who were in total disarray last year, who were so disappointing and never looked like a unified group, suddenly seems like a team. I got the feeling at that moment that they're no longer relying on the stars, or any specific group, but that they trust every member of the team to be able to play a match-winning hand, should it be required.
Bangalore took this comfortably, purely on the quality of the pre-match routine.
The atmosphere was fantastic inside the Bullring, with both teams having huge support. The merchandise stands made a killing as South Africans really chose a team and decided to back them to the hilt. The red of Bangalore got more and more prominent as the game wore on, but I really enjoyed the brief time period when Sivamani was drumming up the support for the "day-glo yellow", as my mate described the jersey of the Super Kings.
It was also fantastic meeting and chatting to a group of guys who came over from Jaipur to see the end of the IPL and to have a short holiday in South Africa.
Plenty of local talent on show in this game, and the crowd showed their appreciation. Morkel got a massive welcome when he came out to bat, and hit a trademark massive DLF-er (with apologies to Danny Morison and Simon Doull).
The crowd was thoroughly entertained by the cricket, but while the TV companies were paying their bills, two of South Africa's most popular bands, Wonderboom and The Parlotones, kept the stadium entertained. And with Sivamani keeping the noise level up between overs, even the most die-hard of purists couldn't help but enjoy the IPL experience.
Banner of the day
It wasn't as cold tonight as other games I've been to, but someone was clearly expecting it to be, and she had an interesting solution: "Mr Delivery, please bring me Dhoni and some hot chocolate".
The semi-final promised to be a wonderful occasion, and I was kept entertained throughout the game. My side won, I picked up a replica top for the final, and the crowd was fantastic. What more could a fan ask for?
Marks out of 10
9.5 . The only thing missing from the game was a real nailbiting finish. But when your team wins, you don't mind small things like that.
The IPL's first foreign trip
The IPL in South Africa is almost certainly a once-in-a-lifetime event, and it has been such an amazing experience. I'm quite surprised at how well the crowds have responded and how, as the tournament progressed, more and more people that I know nailed their colours to the mast and picked a side to support. Who knows, maybe the success in IPL 2009 will strengthen the brand and we could see the tournament outside of India again. But if we don't I'm extremely pleased that I had a chance to experience IPL 2009, and I have no idea what I'm going to watch after I get off work from now on.
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