Royal Challengers scrape past Chennai

Bangalore side scores a hard-fought five-wicket victory with a ball to spare on a turning pitch

Royal Challengers scrape past Chennai

In a match that swung like the proverbial yo-yo, Royal Challengers Bangalore held their nerve to emerge victorious by five wickets and keep their Play-offs hopes alive.

Chasing Chennai Super Kings’ competitive 138 for four, a target made difficult by the diabolical nature of the surface, Royal Challengers replied with 142 for five in 19.5 overs with man-of-the-match AB de Villiers and Yuvraj Singh providing the finishing touches to a low-scoring thriller here at the JSCA cricket stadium on Sunday.

Needing 10 runs from the final over bowled by surprise choice David Hussey, Yuvraj slogged the first ball over mid-wicket for six before taking a couple and a single to level the scores and reduce the equation to one run off three balls. Sachin Rana was dismissed off the fourth ball but Abu Nechim pulled the first ball he faced to mid-wicket fence to bring up Challengers’ fifth win of the season.

Tough proposition

The win appeared a difficult proposition when Royal Challengers needed 64 from the last six overs with skipper Virat Kohli, who had forged a useful 61-run partnership with Chris Gayle (46, 50b, 3x4, 3x6), getting out off the first ball of the 15th over. AB de Villiers, as he had done several times before, rescued the Royal Challengers once again with a 14-ball blinder (28, 1x4, 3x6). While his innings turned the tide in Royal Challengers’ favour, Gayle’s contribution was no less significant.       

The target was never going to be easy given the amount of turn and myriad spinners that Super Kings had in their line-up. R Ashwin, who bowled an astonishing first spell of 3-1-3-1, was simply unplayable. The off-spinner bamboozled Parthiv Patel while Gayle had no clue against him. Of the 19.5 overs, only two overs were bowled by a medium pacer (Mohit Sharma) as Challengers’ batsmen found it hard to pace the innings.    
  
Plenty of turn

It was no different when Super Kings batted first by choice. Barring a brief period between 11th and 14th overs, Super Kings innings never gained momentum. Save Suresh Raina (62, 48b, 6x4, 1x6), none of their batsmen could come to grips with the pitch that offered plenty of turn right from the beginning. Super Kings’ openers Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith suffered a rare failure and that meant they missed out on the initial impetus that was crucial on this surface.

McCullum , though not entirely convincing, appeared to take the fight to the Challengers’ camp but twin strikes in the space of three balls by an otherwise profligate Varun Aaron pegged them back considerably. Hussey’s inclusion in place of an injured Faf du Plessis paid only partially as the Australian, after all the hard work, threw his wicket away just when Super Kings’ innings was gathering steam. 

Hussey and Raina sized up the conditions and first steadied the ship as CSK brought up 55 for two at the end of the 10th over. The 11th over by Aaron, which went for 12 runs, was the push Chennai needed and by the end of the 14th over, the ‘hosts’ had collected 46 runs in four overs, appearing primed for a big assault.

Hussey’s dismissal, however, allowed Challengers to stage a comeback. Home boy Dhoni walked to a rapturous welcome but couldn’t last more than six balls. The Jharkhand man suffered a rare bad day in office as he also experienced his first failure -- as the captain of India and Super Kings -- on this ground. 

Even a set Raina couldn’t do much towards the back end, a combination of accurate fast bowling and tidy effort by spinners preventing Super Kings the desired finish. Nechim (1/18 in four overs) was the stand-out bowler for RCB while Starc was spot on in the death. Kohli rotated his bowlers intelligently and the Super Kings could manage no more than 34 runs in the last six overs.

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