Royal Challengers Bangalore (158/6) looked dead in the water chasing a meager target of 155, but AB de Villiers stepped up to the plate in a big way, scoring a sensational 89 runs and the deciding four with just two balls left to give his team a four-wicket win over Sunrisers Hyderabad (155/6) on Sunday.
The Indian Premier League's official Twitter account confirmed the result:
A chase of 155 didn't appear to be particularly daunting for Bangalore, who have one of the deepest group of batsmen in IPL 7 with De Villiers, Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli, but an early dismissal of the latter (scoring his first duck of the tournament) seemed to throw a wrench in the chase.
|Sunrisers Hyderabad (155/6)|
|Aaron Finch||c Parthiv Patel b Mitchell Starc||13||8||162.50||1||1|
|Shikhar Dhawan||c AB de Villiers b Varun Aaron||37||36||102.77||4||0|
|Lokesh Rahul||c Chris Gayle b Ashok Dinda||6||6||100.00||1||0|
|David Warner||b Mitchell Starc||61||49||124.48||4||3|
|Darren Sammy||c Mitchell Starc b Harshal Patel||8||8||100.00||0||1|
|Naman Ojha||c Mitchell Starc b Varun Aaron||15||11||136.36||1||1|
|Irfan Pathan||NOT OUT||4||2||200.00||1||0|
|Karan Sharma||NOT OUT||1||1||100.00||0||0|
|EXTRAS||(nb 1, w 6, lb 3)||10|
|TOTAL||(6 wickets; 20 overs)||155|
David Warner had scored 61 for Hyderabad, with captain Shikhar Dhawan adding 37 on 36 balls. Mitchell Starc (four overs, 21 runs, two wickets) and Harshal Patel (four overs, 29 runs, one wicket) combined to give Challengers a solid output bowling, keeping the rest of Hyderabad's batsmen in check.
Sunrisers seemed to really struggle for rhythm, but thanks to the performances of Warner and Dhawan, the final run count didn't look too bad. Freddie Wilde thought Starc in particular did a superb job keeping his opponents from making any big plays:
Gayle started quite well in the chase, scoring 27 runs in 19 balls, but Kohli and Parthiv Patel would combine for just three runs. When Rilee Rossouw was dismissed after just 14 runs, the situation started to look dire.
Enter De Villiers.
The South African completely went off against Sunrisers' group of bowlers, following up a decent start with a huge over against Darren Sammy that yielded 16 vital runs, shifting momentum back to Bangalore.
Freddie Wilde was impressed:
The shot of the match was no doubt a high, deep six that landed in the trash bin in front of Bangalore's bench, inspiring a host of trash-related jokes on Twitter:
Dale Steyn (economy rate of 9.25) and Sammy (12.5) clearly struggled against the experienced South African, who kept scoring runs, bringing his team ever closer to the target of 155.
|Royal Challengers Bangalore (158/6)|
|Chris Gayle||c Darren Sammy b Karan Sharma||27||19||142.10||3||2|
|Parthiv Patel||b Bhuvneshwar Kumar||3||5||60.00||0||0|
|Virat Kohli||c Naman Ojha b Bhuvneshwar Kumar||0||5||0.00||0||0|
|Rilee Rossouw||lbw Karan Sharma||14||23||60.86||1||0|
|AB de Villiers||NOT OUT||89||41||217.07||6||8|
|Yuvraj Singh||c sub (Moises Henriques) b Karan Sharma||14||16||87.50||1||1|
|Mitchell Starc||run out (Aaron Finch)||5||8||62.50||0||0|
|Harshal Patel||NOT OUT||1||2||50.00||0||0|
|EXTRAS||(w 4, lb 1)||5|
|TOTAL||(6 wickets; 19.5 overs)||158||TOTAL||(6 wickets; 19.5 overs)|
Bhuvneshwar Kumar took two wickets and gave up just 16 runs in four overs, but even he couldn't dismiss De Villiers, who ended with an incredible strike rate of 217.07.
Such a performance prompted Kohli to call his teammate the greatest player in the world, per ESPN cricinfo:
He (AB) is the best player in the world by far. He has shown it every now and then, and he has shown it again today why he is rated the number one in the world in any format. Today was one of the days we needed someone to win the game from that tough situation. One of the best innings in T20 I have seen, the way he was striking the ball under pressure. We thought it was a below-par score in Bangalore. Generally you get 170. Chris got us to a decent start, the way AB played, he took it away from the opposition.
Dhawan conceded there is little you can do when an opponent plays the way De Villiers did today, per the ESPN cricinfo report:
You cannot help it when someone produces a great knock. Unfortunately we missed the half chance AB offered at point and he took it away after that. We felt we were 10-15 runs short. We started off well as a bowling unit but AB played amazingly. Karn Sharma bowled well, he got their two main left-handers out.
The South African left it late, with his team needing two more runs off the final two balls to win it. Irfan Pathan was the man to deliver both balls, but on his very first, a straight knock to his right went for four, giving Bangalore the win.
The win takes Challengers up to fourth in the standings, just two points off Rajasthan Roughriders for third and four points behind the co-leaders, Chennai Super Kings and Kings XI Punjab.
With bottom-feeders Mumbai Indians next on the schedule, Bangalore will have a great chance to strengthen their position among the top four, with an eye on the play-offs.
Indians looked very solid in their first tournament win over Punjab, however, and Challengers will need more production from the rest of their strong group of batsmen against Mumbai's strong bowling attack.
Sunrisers had a chance to jump into the top four with a win on Sunday and came very close, and following such an emotional loss, a meeting with Kolkata Knight Riders and their far superior net run rate is something the team will not be looking forward to.
Similar to Bangalore, production will be needed from secondary options outside of Warner and Dhawan if the team is to have any hope of making the IPL play-offs.
All statistics used are courtesy of ESPN Cricinfo, unless stated otherwise.