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BENGALURU:A South African’s plight in a knockout match is all too well-known. And in those, A.B. de Villiers has often flattered to deceive. But not on Tuesday, as he single-handedly carried Royal Challengers Bangalore into its third IPL final.
Ploughing a lone furrow, he made an unbeaten 79 as RCB beat Gujarat Lions by four wickets in Qualifier-1 at the Chinnaswamy Stadium here.
On a pitch, which played slower than usual and assisted the bowlers, Dhawal Kulkarni sliced through the RCB top-order, first reducing it to 31 for five and then 68 for six.
But de Villiers stitched together an unbroken seventh-wicket stand of 91 runs off 53 balls with Iqbal Abdulla. What had, for long periods, seemed an anti-climax of sorts — a total around 150, a rare Virat Kohli failure and an RCB top-order collapse — was ultimately salvaged.
Chasing 159, Kohli went for a second-ball duck, chopping one on from Dhawal. In his next over, the Mumbai pacer scalped Chris Gayle and K.L. Rahul off successive balls — the former for nine and the latter for a first-ball duck. When Shane Watson and Sachin Baby too perished within five deliveries of each other, the worst fears of the home fans seemed to be coming true.
But de Villiers was a man on a mission. Up until the 14th over, he kept RCB within touching distance. But a slapped four and a straight six off Dwayne Smith in the 15th over opened the floodgates, and de Villiers and Abdulla finished off the match with 10 balls left.
Earlier, electing to field, Kohli chose Abdulla as an attacking option, introducing him in the second over, and was yet again rewarded. The left-arm spinner found turn immediately and struck gold, dismissing both Brendon McCullum and Aaron Finch in four deliveries.
The former miscued and holed out to de Villiers at deep cover while the latter edged one to Gayle at slip. And when Watson got Suresh Raina to half-heartedly steer a short ball to short fine-leg Lions were tottering at nine for three. Arvind and Watson smothered them in the PowerPlay and restricted Lions to 23 runs in the first six overs.
Karthik, Smith steady ship
But Dinesh Karthik (26) and Smith (73) rebuilt the innings with an 85-run partnership off 61 balls. The duo was cautious at the outset with the first sign of Smith preparing to flex his muscles coming only in the seventh over when he clobbered Jordan over square-leg for six. But from then on the boundaries were breached with greater regularity. The 10th over bowled by Chahal fetched 16 runs and Abdulla gave away 17 runs in the 13th.
Just when it seemed that Lions were ready to step it up further, Karthik dragged a Jordan delivery on to his stumps.
The RCB bowlers gave away just 19 runs from overs 13 to 15, and Chahal dismissed Smith too. But there was still enough sting left in the Lions’ tail. Eklavya Dwivedi and Dhawal managed to hit 20 off Watson in the 19th over, slightly tarnishing his excellent figures until then.