One of the allures of the Champions League Twenty20 is the chance it gives for the little guy on the big stage. None of the obscure domestic cricketers grabbed the opportunity as dramatically as 25-year-old Arun Karthik. He thwacked the final ball of the match over midwicket to conjure a preposterous win, which took Royal Challengers Bangalore through to the semi-finals, and set off on a memorable chest-thumping celebration. That will be the abiding image of Royal Challengers’ victory over South Australia, and perhaps of the league phase of the CLT20.
There was another moment to define the game though. It was in the 13th over of the chase, in the middle of an audacious counterattack by Virat Kohli and Tillakaratne Dilshan. Kohli punched the air angrily after drilling a full toss to long-off for a single. After completing the run, he chastised himself and practised the off-drive again. Annoyance at missing out on a hit-me ball is one thing, but Kohli had missed out on the fourth ball of the over after striking the first three for six, six and four. It was that sort of a match, where no amount of runs seemed enough.
Kohli had played a couple of blinders for the Royal Challengers in the CLT20 last year, and was second only to Chris Gayle in amassing runs in the IPL this season, but this 36-ball 70 ranks as his finest Twenty20 innings. There were several challenges to deal with in this high-pressure must-win game: no IPL team had ever beaten an Australian side in the CLT20, only a handful of times had a target in excess of 200 been successfully hunted down, and finally Gayle, the man whose form has closely mirrored that of the Royal Challengers this year, had been dismissed relatively cheaply.