Bengaluru: Royal Challengers Bangalore beat Gujarat Lions by four wickets to enter the final of the Indian Premier League here on Tuesday. Chasing a modest 158, the Bangalore side were in a shambles at 29 for 5 before a brilliant unbeaten 79 by AB de Villiers took them home with 10 balls to spare.
De Villiers smashed five fours and an equal number of sixes in his 47-ball knock. Iqbal Abdulla (33 not out) and Stuart Binny (21) played good supporting roles.
Earlier, Gujarat Lions, sent in by rival skipper Virat Kohli, were like kittens on a hot tin roof. At 58 for three after the 10th and that too because Dwayne Smith managed to cream 16 off Yuzvendra Chahal, the Lions were desperate to get into the game.
The top of the table clash — Qualifier 1 — to decide the first finalist of IPL-9 saw a full turnout even though it was early start to the week. And the turf posed funny questions on the Lions more so because they allowed the pressure to get the better of them.
Fortunately for them, a free-flowing Smith coming down the order at No.5 but in the middle by the fourth over itself showed that there were no demons in the wicket. It was stopping a bit and turning a tad but the devil probably got to them. In the event, Smith ( 73, 41b, 5x4, 6x6) and his 85-run fourth wicket rescue act with Dinesh Karthik (26) dragged them out of the quagmire and if not for the latter getting too cute and exposing his stumps to Chris Jordan they may have managed a bit more than the eventual 158 in 20 overs.
Twin strikes by left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla in the second over to dismiss the openers — the dangerous Brendon McCullum, who danced down to the tweaker’s first ball and ended up splicing it to AB de Villiers at deep cover — and Aaron Finch who played into Chris Gayle’s hands at lone slip in the space of three deliveries rocked the visitors’ boat.
Gasping for breath, they were left thoroughly choked as skipper Raina never got into the pull on a ball which grew big on him and managed to find S. Arvind at short fine-leg, the fielder having been just moved for the same shot. Nine for three in 3.4 overs didn’t just sound right, of course the RCB fans were delighted and screaming themselves hoarse.
It required someone to take the bull by the horns and Smith did exactly that. Pulling Chris Jordan for the first maximum of the encounter in the 7th over before turning his attention to the spinners, Smith resurrected the Lions. Abdulla after his eventful first over, went for a few ending up with 2-38 while Chahal was repeatedly sent over the ropes as Smith raced to his 50 off 31 deliveries with five boundaries and four sixes.
It helped Lions to come up for air as the team’s 50 came in 9.3 overs before they went past 100 in 14.3 overs. Smith, looking decisively dangerous, fell going for a big one. Ekalavya Dwivedi’s use of the long handle took them close to a respectable 150 before Shane Watson hastened the end.