Raina gate-crashes Challengers' party one more time

Left-hander rises to the occasion in style

Just about eight months ago in September last, the left-handed batsman had smashed an unbeaten 94 off 48 balls to take the game away from Bangalore in the Champions League T20 semifinal in Durban. Kumble, then the captain of the RCB, watched helplessly as his fielders let down offers and his potent weapon Dale Steyn walked off the field injured in an attempt to take a skier. Nothing would go right for the Royal Challengers on that fateful day.

Unforgiving blade

Now the Chief Mentor of the side, the former India captain watched from the dugout Raina pull another Houdini act from his unforgiving blade.

How desperately the leg-spinner, who was rolling his arm over in the adjacent pitch and was getting some appreciable turn off it prior to the match, would have wanted to come out in the middle and stop the mayhem! More than the Champions League loss, the defeat at the Wankhede would have hurt the Bangalorean more.   

On the cusp of making their second final in three years, Challengers threw it all away in the last five overs, feeding off to Raina's strengths.

Fairly or unfairly, Royal Challengers have often been labeled a one-man team. Without a shadow of doubt, Chris Gayle has made a huge difference to their fortunes and on Tuesday, with the West Indian out early, they appeared well on course to prove their critics wrong when they were hit by a rampaging Raina.

The 23-year-old struck a 50-ball 73 as Super Kings, needing 116 from the last 10 overs, pulled off a heist. Ironically, Gayle, who has caused all the damage with the bat, was RCB’s best bowler on the night keeping the Super Kings batsmen quiet with his variations and yorker-length deliveries.

"We were probably in control of the game for the most part," admitted Vettori later. "We didn’t bowl well in the last five overs. We knew that they had quality players in their squad that can clear the boundary.

“We just gave too many balls to hit and they just cashed in on them and were able to keep catching the run-rate. Raina played an amazing innings and it was an amazing game but pretty sad to be on the losing side," he explained.

Not the first time

This was not the first time that Raina has proved RCB's bugbear. Besides his match-winning knock in Durban, he had also played a crucial cameo in the last IPL in Chennai to herald CSK's resurgence. The southpaw had struck an unbeaten 40 off 34 when Super Kings appeared to be losing their way while chasing 162.

Given the situation, however, it was not surprising to see Raina term Tuesday’s knock as his best. “In the Champions League T20, I made 94 against RCB. But the wicket (there) was totally different, so I would say this is my best knock,” he noted.

Coach Ray Jennings’ post on a social networking site summed up the mood in the RCB camp. "We played solid cricket other than 5 overs -- I'm hurting," he wrote.

And if the Bangalore side wants to forget the pain in a hurry, then there is no better way than to end the Kings’ reign at their fortress in Chennai. For that, though, they first need to win the second Qualifier on Friday.

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