Bangalore: The Warriors lower-order batsmen kept swinging their first balls for boundaries to make sure the comeback from Ashwell Prince and Johan Botha was not wasted. Royal Challengers Bangalore had the game won, then lost, then won, then lost, then won, until they finally lost it last ball.
Prince and Botha came together with 91 required off 8.1 overs, but by the time Prince fell for 74 off 55 they were left needing 18 off 10. Craig Thyssen then squeezed a yorker out for four before edging the next, Nicky Boje came out to pull the first he faced for a six only to watch Botha play two dots before getting out in the final over. With six required off two, it was Wayne Parnell's turn to pull a slower bouncer away for four before hitting the final ball to the left of long-on for the match-winning couple.
Like the famous World Cup tie between India and England at the same venue, this match kept turning this way and that so frequently it left you dizzy. Trusting a flat track and short boundaries, the batsmen remained brave, even when it was tense. Especially when it was tense. All five of Bangalore's set batsmen, whose attractive efforts ranged between 34 and 23, were caught at the boundary, leaving them an in-between total by Chinnaswamy standards. The main beneficiary of that hitting was Rusty Theron who ended up with four wickets.
Warriors came out swinging too: JJ Smuts lofted Sreesanth Aravind, the near last-over hero, for a six off the first ball he bowled, Prince swung Chris Gayle for two sixes in his second. Led by Daniel Vettori, the man with the best T20I economy rate among bowlers with at least 50 overs to their name, Bangalore inched back into the match. Vettori accounted for Colin Ingram and Justin Kreusch, but his side's fielding was to soon let him down.
Prince should have been out for 28 off 28 when Viratn Kohli dropped a sitter at midwicket. Botha should have been out for 14 for 9 when his top edge lobbed Mayank Agarwal, who was a couple of yards inside the boundary, at fine leg. That shouldn't take the shine off the efforts of the two. A long-form specialist at international level, Prince showed there was enough room for correct batsmen playing correct shots in Twenty20. He kept the fight up even as wickets fell at the other end, and stayed long enough to bring up his highest Twenty20 score.
And if he did lose faith with the wickets falling, Botha would have reinforced it with a smacking off-drive for four off the first ball he faced. The two then started peppering all boundaries, and a game of tactics ensued. Vettori kept attacking through himself, Dirk Nannes and Chris Gayle, leaving the final two overs for the Indian bowlers who had gone for plenty earlier. Neither Prince nor Botha took a backward step. Prince saw Vettori off with a six off the last ball he bowled, and Botha bid Gayle farewell with two sixes in his last.
Then began two crazy overs for two Karnataka youngsters. Abhimanyu Mithun ran in with 18 to defend in the last two, with 72 having come off the last 6.1. Prince top-edged a slog to send Bangalore into ecstasy. Mithun followed it up a decent full and wide ball, which Thyssen squirted past point. Mithun came back next ball with a short-of-a-length delivery that took the edge. Six off five with two wickets so far. In came Boje, got a short ball, pulled it over wide long-on.
Time for another Bangalorean then to try to redeem himself. With just six to defend, Aravind responded boldly. He went round the stumps, called the keeper up, and beat Botha with back-to-back slower deliveries. Then man with 42 off 23 made the mistake, holing out to long-on. Boje managed only a single next ball, and Bangalore were about to make the final mistake. For the first time in the over Aravind sent the keeper back. Parnell was almost expecting a short ball, when he sat back and waited for the slower bouncer to arrive. He pulled it in the air, it bounced inches inside the midwicket boundary. Botha thought it was a six, and charged onto the field.
He had to go back and watch a mis-hit to long-on off the last ball before he could finally celebrate. Bangalore had lost again the inaugural match of a league season again, taking the count to two in IPL and two in Champions league.