Bengaluru: Ab de Villiers played a breathtaking knock to single-handedly lead Royal Challengers Bangalore fightback and take them into the Indian Premier League final with a thrilling four wicket win over Gujarat Lions here on Tuesday.
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.
Earlier, Smith hammered 73 off 41 balls to help Gujarat Lions recover from a disastrous start and post a competitive total.
Smith hammered six sixes in his whirlwind knock and shared an 85-run stand with Dinesh Karthik (26 off 30) after Lions lost their top three batsmen for nine runs. Watson was the stand out bowler for the hosts, ending with four wickets for 29 runs in his four overs.
RCB, confident of chasing any total at home, were on top of the opposition after putting them in at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.
Kohli gave the ball to left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla (2/38) in the second over and he responded by removing the dangerous opening duo of Aaron Finch and Brendon McCullum.
McCullum stepped out on the first ball Abdulla bowled and ended up being holed out at deep extra cover with the safe hands of AB De Villiers doing the needful. Finch departed three balls later as he tried a flick off one that turned away, only to be caught at first slip by Chris Gayle.
The Lions were in deeper trouble in the fourth over when Watson removed their captain Suresh Raina, who has been the leading run getter for his side in the competition. Raina fell to a short ball again as he pulled Watson straight to the man at short fine-leg.
In came Smith and alongside Karthik did the repair Job. The duo forged a much needed partnership with Smith scoring the bulk of the runs. The West Indian took the attack to the spinners, not allowing them get into the groove. He got to his third half century of the season by sweeping Abdulla to a six over long on.
Karthik, at the other end, played the supporting well until he shuffled across the stumps to lap it towards fine leg, only to play on to his stumps. His shot selection was questionable with a man at deep fine leg in place.
Jadeja joined Smith but the southpaw perished cheaply to continue his modest season with the bat. When the time came to get a move on, the quick wickets of Karthik and Jadeja pegged Lions back further, reducing them to 107 for five.
Smith was the lone hope left for Lions but he too departed while attempting another big one off leggie Yuzvendra Chahal. Besides a barrage of sixes, he ended up hitting five boundaries.
Eklavya Dwivedi did his bit towards the end by smashing 19 off nine balls.
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