Deccan Chargers' stunning victory over the Royal Challengers Bangalore last night threw the race wide open for the last three spots in the IPL semi-finals. The Chargers came from a near-hopeless position in Nagpur to clinch a 13-run victory to take their tally to 12 points and keep their own hopes alive.
It seemed curtains for the home side until the fall of Jacques Kallis, which triggered a collapse from which Bangalore could not recover. They had things under their control for three-quarter of the match. Bangalore were coasting at 95 for two in the 14th over when Kallis, 27, trying to hoist Pragyan Ojha, was caught at the long off fence by Bodapadi Sumanth. And, before long, they were struggling at 110 for six.
However, with Robin Uthappa at the crease, Bangalore still had hopes. He did bring the equation down with a couple of bludgeoning shots out of the ground in Ryan Harris's final over to leave his team needing 18 off the last two overs.But having done that, Uthappa was out to a well-disguised slow delivery from Harmeet Singh, who then trapped Dale Steyn on the first delivery he received, another slow ball, to turn the match around.
Uthappa had hit a quick-fire 34 off 20 deliveries with three sixes, and any hopes Bangalore had of winning evaporated with his departure. The Bangalore innings had an inauspicious start when Manish Pandey fell to the first ball, from Harris, but Rahul Dravid and Kallis took the score to 74. Dravid played a solid knock, hitting eight boundaries in the 35 balls be received before falling, one run short of his half century, to Andrew Symonds. Harris, RP Singh, Ojha and Harmeet picked up two wickets apiece.
Earlier, Steyn had the Chargers' top order rocking with a superb opening spell before Rohit Sharma and Monish Mishra resurrected the innings with an 82-run stand for the fourth wicket. The South African paceman had the captain, Adam Gilchrist, caught behind to the first delivery he faced and the in-form Suman fell to the very next ball. Herschelle Gibbs (12), having hit a six and a four, was Steyn's third victim as the Chargers were left reeling at 14 for three in the third over. Steyn returned with three for 18 from his four overs.
Sharma played the anchor role for a well-compiled 51 off 46 deliveries, hitting seven fours. And together with Mishra they batted for 10 overs before the latter got run out after a silly mix-up, for a 30-ball 41, containing three sixes and a four. Mishra was the more aggressive of the two and hit the ball cleanly. He clouted three sixes off three different bowlers, lofting Anil Kumble over the mid wicket, Virat Kohli over long-off and KP Appanna over the sightscreen.
Sharma bloomed after a slow start. He smacked Kallis for three consecutive boundaries, a paddle-sweep, a cover drive and a hook. He fell to Vinay Kumar in the first delivery of the penultimate over, caught by Manish Pandey running down from the long leg fence. Andrew Symonds (19 off 20) and Ryan Harris (13 not out off 9) didn't get their big shots going as the Chargers ended up at 151 for six. In other IPL news, Graeme Smith will begin training on Wednesday after almost five weeks out with a finger injury that ruled him out of the Rajasthan Royals team.
The South Africa captain picked up the knock while playing for the Royals on March 15 - a blow that had put his participation in the ICC World Twenty20 in the Caribbean in doubt. * Compiled by Amith Passela IPL statistics