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In one of the best T20 finishes ever seen, Steve Smith and James Faulkner pulled of an improbable win for the Rajasthan Royals in Bengaluru. The pair came together at a point when the target was still 85 runs away and they had only 39 balls to achieve it. What ensued was a blitzkrieg of fours and sixes, with which both the RR batters forced RCB into submission. Thanks to their miraculous efforts, RR reached the 191-run target by a five-wicket margin with seven balls to spare. The duo negated Yuvraj Singh’s brilliant all-round performance, which saw him score a 38-ball 83 and pick up four crucial wickets.
Earlier, Virat Kohli (4) elected to bat first upon winning the toss, and even opened the innings with Chris Gayle. However, the move up the batting order did not work for the RCB skipper as Kane Richardson dismissed him in the third over. Vijay Zol came in at No.3 for the home team. He added 32 for the second wicket with Gayle (19), until the West Indian opener got stumped off the bowling of Pravin Tambe in the eighth over. Rahul Tewatia then got rid of Zol (16) with the RCB score on 40 for three in 8.1 overs.
That is when AB de Villiers and Yuvraj Singh came together and changed the complexion of the innings. The experienced batsmen, who are both known for their massive strikes, lived up to their reputation. Striking a total of 12 sixes – five by de Villiers and seven by Yuvraj Singh – they deflated the morale of the opposition bowlers. During their 65-ball liaison, they added 132 runs and propelled the RCB score past the 170-run mark. In the process, Yuvraj Singh (83) even raced to a quick-fire half century. Finally, the southpaw was trapped leg-before by Kane Richardson in the 19th over to give RR a much-needed breather.
de Villiers (58), however, continued to plunder some quick runs and brought up his half-century as well. He was eventually dismissed by James Faulkner in the final over of the innings. Thanks to the Yuvi-AB show, the home team ended up scoring a mammoth 190 for five in their 20 overs.
In response, Ajinkya Rahane and Karun Nair gave RR a good start. They added 54 runs, before Rahane (24) got out off the bowling of Yuzvendra Chahal. Yuraj Singh’s magical night continued when he rolled his arm and bowled Shane Watson (1) out cheaply. Even Stuart Binny’s (1) stay in the middle was brief, and Yuvraj Singh was responsible for his wicket as well. The RCB all-rounder then caught Sanju Samson (13) off his own bowling. And finally, Yuvraj Singh capped off a brilliant night by bowling Nair (56) out, after he had scored a half-century.
And while Yuvraj Singh’s exploits reduced RR to 106 for five in 13.3 overs, his efforts did not result in a win for RCB. What transpired over the next 5.2 overs was nothing short of a miracle. Steve Smith (48*), along with James Faulkner (41*), scripted a comeback for the ages to pull RR out of the depths and into the driver’s seat. The Australian duo struck a flurry of fours and sixes during their unbroken 85-run stand that saw their team home. From the persistent celebratory cheer that permeated the crowd, a stunned silence gripped the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium as the duo went after any bowler who came in their way. RR eventually reached the target off the second-last ball of the 19th over when Faulkner struck a six off Varun Aaron.
Man of the Match: James Faulkner for his game-changing innings
Desperately seeking a win in Cuttack, the Kolkata Knight Riders did the unthinkable – they beat the in-form Kings XI Punjab by a whopping nine-wicket margin with 12 balls to spare. Led by Piyush Chawla and Sunil Narine, the KKR bowlers restricted the dangerous KXIP line-up to 149 for eight. And later, skipper Gautam Gambhir steered the run-chase with an unbeaten half-century and took his team across the line.
Earlier, Gambhir won the toss and asked KXIP to take first strike. Virender Sehwag and Mandeep Singh came out to open the innings in Cuttack, and the veteran opener helped plunder 17 runs off the first over – bowled by Jacques Kallis. However, Mandeep (0) got out in the second over itself, edging Morne Morkel to the ‘keeper. Wriddhiman Saha (15) then walked in the middle. But he became Morkel’s second victim when he was cleaned up in the sixth over.
At 48 for two, Glenn Maxwell took strike opposite Sehwag. And while the duo was pegged back for a few overs by Sunil Narine and co, Sehwag soon brought up his half-century. And by the halfway stage, the scorecard read 85 for two. But Piyush Chawla then claimed the big wicket of Maxwell (14) in the 11th over. The KKR leggie even bowled Sehwag (72) out; the Nawab of Najafgarh played a 50-ball impact innings that included eleven fours and a maximum.
David Miller (13) was the next man to depart; Umesh Yadav cleaned him up in the 16th over to leave KXIP on 120 for five. In the next over, Chawla returned to bowl Rishi Dhawan (4) out. George Bailey (12*) and Mitchell Johnson (14) then added 21 runs, before the latter was stumped off Narine with just one ball to go in the innings. KKR then effected Akshar Patel’s run-out off the final delivery of the 20th over, and restricted KXIP to 149 for eight. Chawla (4-0-19-3) was the pick of the KKR bowlers, while Narine (4-0-20-2) also had a good day at the office.
In response, Robin Uthappa and Gambhir kick started the KKR run-chase in great fashion. The duo maintained a run-rate of close to nine-an-over, and brought up the KKR 50 in the sixth over itself; they managed 55 runs in the powerplay. Uthappa (46) was the more aggressive of the two batters and he struck eight fours and a six during his 28-ball knock. He was, however, dismissed by Parvinder Awana in the seventh over.
Manish Pandey came out to bat with his captain, with the scorecard reading 68 for one. Even this pair continued undaunted while maintaining a very healthy run-rate. They brought up the team 100 in the 12th over, bringing the required run-rate down to around six-an-over. Soon, Gambhir (63*) also reached his half-century – his third this season. Thanks to his unbroken 82-run stand with Pandey (36*), the Knight Riders registered a massive nine-wicket with a full two overs to spare.
Man of the Match: Gautam Gambhir for leading a successful run-chase