Ab de Villiers played a breathtaking knock to singlehandedly lead Royal Challengers Bangalore fightback and take them into the Indian Premier League final with a thrilling four wicket win over Gujarat Lions in Qualifier 1 here today.
Chasing 159, RCB looked down and out at 29 for five before de Villiers smashed 79 off 47 balls to script a sensational comeback and take the team home in 18.2 overs. The Lions were outdone by one man’s class as the efforts of Dhawal Kulkarani and Dwayne Smith went in vain.
With the spectacular win, RCB are into their third IPL final and one step away from their maiden title. Lions on other hand will have another chance to make the summit clash in the Qualifier 2 in Delhi on Friday.
The RCB were expected to overcome the target with minimum fuss but tricky batting conditions at the normally batting friendly Chinnaswamy made the job tougher for them.
Virat Kohli and Chris Gayle can close the game in a space of a few overs but the devastating opening pair had an off day. Kohli, who has been in sensational form this IPL, suffered a rare failure when he dragged a wide one off Kulkarni on to his stumps, stunning the crowd into silence.
The disappointment on the face of India’s star batsman was evident as he walked back into the dressing room. The two of his four hundreds in the competition had come against the Lions.
The odd ball stopping on a slower surface made the task more challenging. Gayle too was out in Kulkarni’s over as he attempted a whack over midwicket to see his stumps rattled.
Kulkarni kept bowling in the off stump corridor and that worked brilliantly for him. Lokesh Rahul was caught at first slip the following ball and Kulkarni was on a hat-trick. Kulkarni ended up with a career best figures of 4 for 14, albeit in a losing cause.
Soon after, RCB had lost half their side with de Villiers left to pull off a herculean task. The South African, as he often he does, brought his team back into the game and involved Iqbal Abdulla (33 not out off 25) in a unbeaten 91-run stand for the seventh wicket.
The team needed 49 off the last 30 balls but de Villiers paced his innings perfectly to take the team with 10 balls to spare. He ended with five sixes and as many boundaries in his special knock.
RCB were in a real spot of bother as they needed to win their last four games to make it to the play-offs. The Bangalore outfit showed great fighting spirit, with Kohli leading from the front, to record four consecutive wins to finish the league engagements at the second spot.