A 72-run partnership between Manish Pandey and Rahul Dravid proved decisive as Royal Challengers Bangalore booked their place in the Indian Premier League final with a comfortable six-wicket victory over the Chennai Super Kings. Bangalore, one of the worst teams in the inaugural IPL, will now face another side that struggled in the 2008 season, Deccan Chargers, in today's final at the Wanderers.
Chasing 147 for victory, the win was all set up by veteran Dravid (44) and youngster Pandey (48), who only two days earlier became the first Indian player to score a hundred in the competition's brief history, as their side coasted home with seven balls to spare. Earlier it was a disciplined bowling display from the Royal Challengers that helped them restrict Chennai, with top scorer Parthiv Patel (36) one of several players to get starts.
The young wicketkeeper smashed Jacques Kallis for three fours in the second over to help his side raise the 50 in just 32 balls, but his 61-run partnership with Matthew Hayden ended when Vinay Kumar (2-38) had the Australian caught by Pandey at deep mid-wicket for 26. Eight runs later, Kallis (1-26) came back to put an end to Patel's 27-ball innings trapping him lbw as the Super Kings reached the halfway stage at 74 for two.
Their progress continued to stutter thereafter with Praveen Kumar (1-26) removing Suresh Raina (20), who top-edged a slower ball that was snapped up by Mark Boucher. At that stage, Chennai were on 104 and the situation again forced Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Albie Morkel to rebuild. They added 21 for the fourth wicket in 3.1 overs, before Vinay took a well-judged catch off Roelof van der Merwe (1-23) on the long-on fence to send the India captain on his way for 28, with Morkel (20 not out) eventually lifting his side to a below-par total.
Bangalore's chase began promisingly as they raced to 17 in just 10 balls, but they were then handed a double setback. The first one came when Manpreet Gony drew a fine nick from Kallis to send him on his way for nine and that was followed by Morkel making a mess of Van der Merwe's stumps for two. But Dravid and Pandey calmed nerves with a fine 50-run stand that was brought up in just 34 balls as they helped Bangalore to a commanding 82 for two.
The pair continued to blossom after the break, but Shadab Jakati struck in his final over when he bowled Pandey to give Chennai hope. That hope was further enhanced just over two overs later when Muttiah Muralitharan trapped Dravid lbw with 37 runs still needed from 29 balls. But Virat Kohli (24 not out) and Ross Taylor (17 not out) needed just 22 of those deliveries as they eased to victory with more than an over to spare.
* PA Sport