Amid fears that the controversy surrounding three players had dampened the enthusiasm of fans for the Indian Premier League 2013, a 35,000-strong crowd endured rain and strong winds, sticking around at M Chinnaswamy Stadium late into Saturday (May 18) night to watch an eight-overs-a-side match. And they were richly rewarded as Virat Kohli, the Royal Challengers Bangalore captain, turned on the heat with an unbeaten 29-ball 56 that powered his team to 106 for 2 against Chennai Super Kings. The result ensured that Bangalore's hopes of making the final four were kept alive with a 24-run win. To advance, however, Bangalore still need Sunrisers Hyderabad to lose to Kolkata Knight Riders on Sunday.
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Chennai have proven adept at chasing stiff targets over 20 overs, with the likes of Mike Hussey, Suresh Raina and Mahendra Singh Dhoni being masters of constructing an innings and controlling the tempo. In an eight-over slog, however, the margin for error was wafer thin. What was needed was incessant hitting, and the surest way to ensure that did not happen was for Bangalore to pick up wickets. (See match pics)
Zaheer Khan did just that, having Hussey brilliantly caught by KL Rahul, who donned the big gloves for the first time in the season. Raina attempted to tee off as soon as he got to the crease and only ended up hitting it up in the air for Vinay Kumar to catch, backpedalling at mid-off. Dwayne Bravo denied Zaheer his hat-trick, but 11 for 2 soon became 29 for 3 as Bravo skied one to third man off Vinay. (Read Kohli's match reaction)
M Vijay attempted to keep the required run rate within sight, but with 51 runs needed from the final two overs of the chase, he top-edged a catch to be dismissed on 32. A tough situation turned hopeless with 39 needed off the final over, and Chennai went down swinging. Zaheer finished with the remarkable figures of 4 for 17 from two overs.
At 11pm, when the first ball was bowled, Kohli, walked out to open the innings with Chris Gayle and married aggression with attractive strokeplay. A carom ball from R Ashwin was picked early and whipped through midwicket and Chris Morris was comfortably launched inside-out over long-off.
Where Kohli was doing his best to play to his own strengths, Gayle felt the pressure to score at a rate even higher than his usual frenetic standard. A sliced six over backward point got him underway, but it was not until the fifth over, bowled by Jason Holder, that he got a measure of the game. Holder was pummeled for a six over midwicket, flicked disdainfully into the stands at square-leg and pulled viciously for a hat-trick of sixes.
Chennai found relief in the sixth over when Gayle (28) slapped Bravo straight to Hussey at mid-off. Fortunately for Bangalore, Kohli's blitz kept his team alive.