Virat Kohli has been at pains trying to convince everyone that there is more to the Royal Challengers Bangalore's batting than Chris Gayle. With the left-hand opener winning them eight games and RCB losing the only game he failed to fire, it was only natural the red and gold brigade were termed
as a one-man army.
Chennai Super Kings players Suresh Raina (L) and R Ashwin celebrate the dismissal of Pune Warriors Robin Uthappa during their IPL Twenty20 match in Navi Mumbai.
When Gayle had his second failure of the Indian Premier League on Tuesday, there were many who felt it was curtains for Vijay Mallya's team.
The young Indian batsman silenced all doubters with a display of belligerent hitting in the game that mattered at the Wankhede Stadium. In the first qualifier, Kohli hit an unbeaten 70 off 44 balls to lift his team to 175 for four, the highest score against Chennai Super Kings this season.
However, another rising star, with a bit more experience to boot, came to the party for the defending champions. Suresh Raina, braving cramp, dug in to superbly anchor the chase which often looked doubtful.
Eventually Raina was unbeaten on a 50-ball 73 as Albie Morkel hit the bit shots from the other end, sealing the thrilling victory with two balls to spare. Chennai finished on 177 for four, and return home to wait for the final opponents they will face on Saturday.
RCB bowlers trooped out an inspired lot. Zaheer Khan was almost unplayable on his homeground. CSK's in-form opener Mike Hussey had no clue how to negotiate the big swing and the left-arm pacer had his man with a lovely incoming ball in the very first over. From the other end, left-arm R Aravind snapped up Murali Vijay to make it 7 for two. But a partnership of 63 between Suresh Raina and S Badrinath laid the foundation for CSK's recovery.
RCB have a second chance when they play at home against the winners of the other qualifier between Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders.
Gayle may have hit them hard in the last game but when it mattered the burly Jamaican was all worked out. MS Dhoni's ploy was clear - the left-handed opener was not allowed to make room and free his arms. Bollinger first softened him with a sharp bouncer and then every time he stepped back, the left-arm pacer followed him with the ball. From the other end, Albie Morkel kept the demonic striker quiet by bowling full.
Dhoni went for the kill and unleashed his main weapon, R Ashwin, the only bowler to get respect from Gayle on Sunday. Having scored two off seven balls, Gayle felt under pressure to attack. He clobbered Ashwin for a mighty six, but on the next ball the off-spinner had his man as Gayle missed a sweep shot to be leg before wicket.
RCB's young opener Mayank Agarwal chipped in with a 33-ball 34 but the shackles were broken by Luke Pomersbach (18-ball 29).