Gayle, Kohli take RCB to CLT20 Final
The Royal Challengers Bangalore marched into the final of the 2011 Champions League T20 beating the New South Wales Blues by 6 wickets in the first semi final at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore.
The team chased a 200 plus total a record second consecutive time and did it quite comfortably, finishing the chase with 9 balls to spare, eliminating the second Australian side from the tournament and booking their place in a CLT20 final for the first time having made it to every edition staged and reaching the semi final in 2010.
Daniel Vettori must have pulled his hair out when he learnt that Syed Mohammed couldn’t play the semi final against NSW Blues. Syed had been the team’s second best bowler after Vettori, they would have faced stiffer targets and been utterly hapless defending their totals without him. As it happened, the man who had to do Syed’s job shone and he shone bright. As David Warner exploded in the second half of NSW’s innings, Dilshan’s scrooge like return at the start grew in value.
The opening pair of Watson and Warner was expected to set the Chinnaswamy alight with their big hitting. Dilshan opened the bowling, denying them room to swing their arms, getting enough turn to make them choose caution while dealing with him. Watson grew tired of it very soon and his indifferent tournament continued as a ballooning top edge was caught safely at long on.
The pudgy Daniel Smith and David Warner used the pace and the crease suitably to attack Nannes, Vettori, Gayle and Aravind but were ably held back by Dilshan who finished his four overs unchanged right through the powerplay for 1 wicket and just 10 runs. The rest of the attack bled runs with Warner and Smith matching each other shot for shot and big hit for big hit. They picked up the acceleration midway through the innings, sparing none of the bowlers. Warner even brought out the switch hit against Rajoo Bhatkal, sending the ball sailing into what was extra cover for him. From 76/1 after 10 overs, NSW raced to 163/3 after 17 overs.
Aravind removed Smith for 62 off 42 on his return in the 18th over but Warner powered on, reaching his second consecutive ton of the CLT20 (after one against CSK earlier in the week) off 62 balls before clobbering Aravind for 23 runs in the last over, taking NSW to 203/2, unbeaten on 123 with six 4s and eleven 6s.
Ray Jennings would have wanted his team to repeat their quickfire opening partnership from their game against the Redbacks but that was not to happen. Dilshan was frustrated by the metronomic Stuart Clark in the first over, watched Gayle take boundaries off Starc and Cummins from the other end and got impatient. He either found the fielder or missed the ball altogether before mistiming one straight to mid off. For the second game in a row, Kohli walked into a high pressure situation and produced a class act of T20 batting. Gayle was in an imperious mood after missing out against in the previous game, Kohli just wasn’t satiated.
Gayle hit through the spells of Clark and Cummins, hitting the latter for 22 off the 5th over, while Kohli announced his intent against Starc, taking him for 16 with four boundaries, cut, pulled, tucked and flicked into gaps authoritatively. Gayle greeted O’Keefe with brutality too as Katich shuffled his bowlers hoping to unsettle the batsmen. Steve Smith’s introduction for the 10th over worked a bit but the Royal Challengers were already on 109/1 at the end of it.
Steve Smith’s second over saw Kohli being dropped off the first ball while on 44*. A wicket having been averted, the pair showed no signs of slowing down, taking runs off Smith and meting out punishment even to Warner who was brought into the attack.
Cummins pulled them back with a double strike in the next over, the 14th. He removed Gayle for a murderous 92 off 41 balls with eight 4s and 6s each off his 5th ball and Tiwary for a duck off the next, a fiery yorker disrupting the bails. Agarawal departed in Cummins’ next over but not before he took a six off O’Keefe as RCB slid from 162/1 to 172/4 in the space of 10 balls. Cummins finished a fine over to end with 4/45, having troubled the batsmen with his raw pace through the night although it meant that NSW had bowled out their best bowler.
Another tight over from Clark followed in which Kaif and Kohli were content taking the singles while pushing for boundaries, leaving them needing 24 off 18 balls. Kohli had missed out on finishing the game a few days earlier and had his mind set on staying till the end this time. The reintroduction of Starc was his cue and he immediately hit 16 runs off the 18th over to defuse a potentially threatening situation. Kaif then punished two loose balls from Steve Smith for consecutive boundaries as RCB finished their second successive 200 run plus run chase in two matches, this time doing it with a lot of balls and anxiety to spare, posting 204/4 in just 18.3 overs. Kohli remained unbeaten on 84 off 49 balls with ten 4s and three 6s, showing just how much he valued his wicket, showing just how much any opposition should be scared of him.
From having no points from two games a week ago, RCB have risen like champions to reach the final of the CLT20. They’ve ended on the wrong side of tournament finals before but having passed through two tests of fire enroute, they will be the better prepared team on Sunday.