An unexpected win: Bangalore Royal Challengers celebrate after defeating Chennai Super Kings in the IPL T20 semi-final match in Johannesburg, S Africa. Bangalore will face Deccan Chargers in IPL final tomorrow.
Watching Manish Pandey pose for photographs and sign autographs at the team hotel on Friday night, one wondered what the boy was doing. In the bubbly and effervescent world called Twenty20, his star value is just a match old but the youngster from Karnataka is doing everything possible to ensure that he isn't a one-match wonder.
Chasing a competitive 146 against the favourites Chennai Super Kings on Saturday, the Royal Challengers Bangalore romped home in the second semifinal thanks to the pace set by the kid before veterans ensured that the momentum was maintained.
It led to the most inconceivable final line-up between teams that were at the bottom last year. The Royal Challengers versus Deccan Chargers on Sunday would have rekindled memories of the 1985 World Series India-Pakistan final described as battle between bus drivers and tram conductors.
Pandey set it up, with Rahul Dravid for company, who was out to silence murmurs about the ability of the veterans to adapt. When both were gone, it was up to the raw power of Virat Kohli and Ross Taylor to finish it off. A flurry of sixes, when it just got tight, soothed the nerves of boss Vijay Mallya.
The 19-plus Pandey, who struck a blazing hundred in the previous match against the Deccan Chargers while batting first, led the chase this time, outscoring Dravid.
It was not mindless slogging but full of pleasing strokes along the carpet at a strike rate fast enough to put the axe-wielders of this version to envy.
It was yet another match in front of a packed stand with a near riot erupting among fans carrying flags of the two sides. A contest was also on as to who could scream louder. On the field, their teams lived up to the mood with a healthy contest.
The Super Kings were off to a better start thanks to Parthiv Patel, who in his eagerness to emerge out of the huge shadow of Matthew Hayden, called the early shots. The Royal Challengers were not exactly scurrying for cover, but looked worried nonetheless. However, the going was much to the liking of the yellow shirts in the stands.
Fifty came at a fast clip and those occupying the major slots looked good but failed to carry on. Brisk starts are welcome in T20 as long as someone drops anchor, stays put and spends time in the middle. Even though most of them got good starts, the Super Kings missed someone with this quality.
That the Royal Challengers found two such men made the difference in the end.