Coming into this match with the primary intention of winning and avoiding a heavy defeat at worst, Bangalore Royal Challengers unearthed a hero apart from achieving their goal. Even the hardcore follower of domestic cricket would struggle to say who Manish Pandey is. Hereon, he will be remembered as the first Indian to score a hundred in IPL.
Riding the Karnataka batsman’s first tryst with stardom on a cold Thursday evening, the Royal Challengers turned the heat on Deccan Chargers to finish third after the last league match and booked a semifinal berth. Chargers too made it as the fourth team on the basis of better net run rate than Kings XI Punjab. The Chargers play Delhi Daredevils on Friday with the Royal Challengers taking on Chennai Super Kings on Saturday.
With the run rate expected to play a part, Royal Challengers needed a good total after winning the toss. Pandey came out to open but got an early reprieve when R.P. Singh dropped him at deep third-man on two. The dismissal of Jacques Kallis in the first over and the subsequent charge by Roelof van der Merwe cornered attention early on.
The largely unnoticed member of last year’s under-19 World Cup-winning Indian team started blossoming during his third-wicket partnership of 45 with Rahul Dravid in which the former India captain contributed six. Not that Dravid could be blamed for going slow. He faced just nine balls in the stand which lasted five overs.
Instead of going gaga over Pandey, who made two half-centuries in eight Ranji Trophy innings after making his first-class debut last season, it would be fair on the youngster to say that he didn't look out of place in the big league in a big match for his side on what was his third appearance in this competition.
The early rustiness and nerves made way for some composed hitting, the extra fraction of a second he seemed to have in hand compared to others at the opposite end standing out.
It is indeed premature to say anything, but the straight six he struck off R.P. Singh in the last over of the innings bore the signature of a player with potential.