The Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) became the first team to qualify for the 2016 IPL Championship final after beating the Gujarat Lions at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore. RCB at one stage of the tournament looked like not making it to the play-offs but have done incredibly well in their last four matches and have booked themselves a slot in the final.
The Gujarat Lions batted first and were immediately in trouble losing both their big hitters in the first two overs. To make matters worse, they lost their captain Suresh Raina in the 4th over and the Lions were tottering at 3-9. However Dwayne Smith formed crucial partnerships with D Karthik and Dwivedi to take the Lions to a respectable 158. Smith scored 73 of just 41 balls with a strike rate of over 140.
The total was not very big, especially considering the form that RCB captain Virat Kohli has been in. However Kohli fell for a duck and RCB would lose both Gayle and K Rahul in the 4th over as Kulkarni struck twice to give the Lions the momentum. RCB got themselves further in trouble as they lost the wickets of Watson and Baby, leaving them reeling at 5 for 29.
The Lions only threat was in the form of AB Devilliers but they continued to apply the pressure as Jadeja sent down four tight overs for just 21 runs. The match turned in RCB’s favour when Suresh Raina handed the ball to S Jakati who was thrashed all over the park by AB Devillers and from then on RCB never looked back. RCB ended up winning the match in 18.2 overs and the entire team looked very pumped after their win.
In a statement, AB Devilliers said “I was very, very nervous to be honest. I know if I was at the end, we would be close. The one boundary just cleared the fielder [Finch] and I saw the ball well from then. I attacked Dwayne Smith; Virat said the weather was bad. This crowd is the loudest I have heard in my life… We went down in the first half of the tournament, but we have turned it around”
The Lions will now have one last chance to qualify when they play the second qualifier and Raina will have to use his bowlers wisely if they are to book themselves a place in the 2016 IPL Championship finale.