AB de Villiers combined with Mandeep Singh for a game-changing partnership as Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) eliminated Rajasthan Royals (RR) from the 2015 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) with a splendid 71-run win in Pune on Wednesday.
De Villiers hit a brilliant 38-ball 66 and shared a match-winning 113-run stand with Mandeep Singh (54 not out) as Bangalore recovered from a sluggish start to post a challenging 180 for four after electing to bat.
Rajasthan had the proceedings firmly under their grip but they leaked 86 runs in the last six overs to let it slip.
De Villiers' 66 came off 38 balls with four sixes and as many fours while Mandeep took 34 balls for his unbeaten 54, which had seven fours and two sixes.
Rajasthan never looked convincing in their chase as they kept losing wickets and eventually folded for just 109 in 19 overs, built around Ajinkya Rahane's fighting 42.
Rajasthan's surprise capitulation reduced it to a lop-sided affair and their total was the lowest in the IPL playoffs.
Bangalore will now play against Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the second Qualifier on Friday, the winner of which will lock horns with Mumbai Indians (MI) in the summit clash on Sunday.
Rajasthan lost in-form Shane Watson (10) and Sanju Samson (5) cheaply and the onus was on Rahane and skipper Steve Smith to bring the side back in the contest.
The two looked like raising a partnership but David Wiese dismissed Smith (12) at the start of the ninth over with only 55 runs on the board. Rahane kept losing partners as Karun Nair (12) was then caught behind off Harshal Patel.
The required rate zoomed up to 15 and Rahane was left with no option but to go all out and in the process he lost his wicket when he swept Yuzvendra Chahal, managed only an edge, which was easily taken by De Villiers.
Nothing was going Rajasthan's way as James Faulkner was dismissed in bizarre fashion. The Australian hit a low full toss from Sreenath Aravind, the edge hit the toe of the batsman and flew towards the bowler, who took an easy catch in his follow-through.
Stuart Binny (0) was then run out and it was all over after that for Rajasthan. Patel (2/15) and Aravind (2/20) took two wickets apiece.
Earlier, electing to bat, RCB had managed only 60 runs in the first 10 overs but thanks to sensible batting by De Villiers and Mandeep, the team scored 120 in the next 10.
It was Mandeep, who provided the innings impetus initially and later De Villiers went hammer and tongs.
Four bowlers were used by Rajasthan in the powerplay and they were reasonably successful to tame the big-hitting Chris Gayle (27). It was only when Dhawal Kulkarni bowled that the marauding Caribbean got the chance to open his arms.
Largely, Gayle was on strike and Rajasthan bowlers did a commendable job to keep the West Indies batsman quiet. They bowled wicket-to-wicket and the ball was also getting purchase from the wicket as it had bounce.
In the last ball of the powerplay overs, Gayle missed the line completely as Kulkarni hit the top of the middle stump, leaving RCB 41 for 1.
In his next over, Kulkarni jolted the rivals by scalping Kohli (12), who handed a simple return catch to the bowler as he miscued one and the leading edge was there to be taken.
De Villiers was at the crease but the bowlers domination continued as RCB were 60 for 2 in 10 overs.
Kulkarni completed his quota of overs with decent figures of 4-0-28-2.
Mandeep looked for boundaries and he did hit some clean shots to the fence. Such was the discipline of the bowlers that even De Villiers found it hard to get the big shots away. The windy conditions too made stroke-making difficult.
The South African broke the shackles with a six off spinner Ankit Sharma, bringing up the 100 for the team and the 50-run stand with Mandeep. He hit another six and a four in the same over, collecting 19 runs. The left-arm spinner had given away only 9 runs in his earlier two overs.
The two batsmen then took turns to punish the bowlers as RR started losing control.
De Villiers was run out in the penultimate over. Mandeep completed his fifty with a six and a four off James Faulkner.