It was literally a case of blow-hot one day and blow-cold on another. Despite early stutter, RCB batted powerfully after winning the toss in Pune’s Eliminator match against a side, which recorded five consecutive victories to begin the 2015 IPL season. And when, no one doubted their place in play-offs, RR lost their way. Bangalore had a relatively harder time with inconsistent performance topped by rains making their games difficult. But when it mattered most, RCB came up with great batting show from AB de Villiers and Mandeep Singh and made RR look like an ordinary side at Pune. Two days later however, when RCB took on CSK at Ranchi’s slow pitch, their batting lost the edge. Gayle probably created a record by notching up less than 100% strike rate by hanging around for 43 balls in scoring just 41. Kohli, Mandeep and de Villiers were taken early as CSK bowlers took command. With Dinesh Karthik and Sarfaraz Khan coming up with some quick runs in last overs, RCB managed a mere 139 in sharp contrast to their performance at Pune two days ago. The slow Ranchi pitch also affected CSK, when they batted but Bangalore’s total was too small for causing any big surprise. Chennai went through to the final for sixth time in eight season to take on Mumbai Indians at Kolkata on Sunday. A couple of seasons ago, CSK had lost the final to Mumbai but they will like to reverse that this time round.
In the Eliminator at Pune, RCB took on a Rajasthan Royals latest news side that had lost its rhythm after a great start in the early phase. RR’s 2015 IPL story was a case of two contrasting halves. After winning commandingly in first five matches; they lost to KXIP in the one-over-eliminator. Afterwards, they lost several matches because their death bowling lacked teeth. After scoring 199 against KKR in Mumbai’s crunch game, they just managed a 9-run victory. RCB managers must have been keeping track and therefore they would have planned their strategy accordingly. Virat Kohli won the toss and elected to bat. Gayle and Kohli didn’t have a great start as they literally crawled in the power-play session. By 8th over, both openers were taken out. 46/2 with Gayle gone for 26-ball 27 and Kohli taking 18 balls for 12 runs without a single boundary was a pretty bad beginning. In the next 11 overs, however, RCB were taken out of the hole by a blistering 113-run third wicket stand from de Villiers and Mandeep Singh. This effort took RCB’s score to 180/4 in 20-overs. Requiring 181 to qualify, RR began disastrously. They lost Shane Watson, Sanju Samson, Steven Smith and Karun Nair to reel at 79/4 in the 13th over. Now with more than 100 runs needed in the next 7 overs, they had only Ajinkya Rahane. But when RCB bowlers applied pressure, Rahane fell in the 14th over for a 39-ball 42, Faulkner in the 15th, Stuart Binny followed Faulkner next ball, Chris Morris fell in 16th and Deepak Hooda made it 99/9 in the 17th. Every RCB bowler made his mark as RR were bundled out for 109 in 19 overs to yield a massive 71-run victory to RCB.
Two days later in Ranchi, the tables were turned on RCB but not before the last-over drama. After winning the toss, CSK asked RCB to bat first. The Bangalore side began disastrously losing three vital wickets inside 8 overs with a pathetically compiled 36/3. The worst was; although Gayle continued, he batted like a ghost of his known self. Falling as the fourth wicket in 14th over, the giant West Indian could only muster a labored 41-off 43 balls. It was an eminently forgettable batting display from RCB despite Dinesh Karthik and Sarfaraz Khan helping the team finish at 139/8 after 20.
The 140-run victory chase looked easy on paper but the Ranchi pitch was a bitch for the best of batsmen on Friday. Dwayne Smith got out in the fourth over and although du Plessis and Hussey forked out 40 runs for second wicket, they consumed more than 6 overs. du Plessis fell in the 10th over and Suresh Raina lasted only two balls. In the 17th over, when Hussey got out as the fourth wicket for a 46-ball 56, CSK still required 32 runs in 21 balls. RCB nearly made a game out of it, when they sent back Negi and Bravo back to the pavilion before Dhoni fell with two balls left and 1 run required. Ravichandran Ashwin completed the formality off the fifth ball of 20th over and CSK entered their 6th IPL final.
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