AB de Villiers © AFP
AB de Villiers scored a match-winning 79 not out © AFP

Dhawal Kulkarni needed just 1.3 overs to shatter the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) top order but AB de Villiers wrested back control to overcome Gujarat Lions (GL) by a thrilling 4 wickets in Qualifier 1 of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2016 at Bengaluru on Tuesday. With this win RCB reach the final of IPL 9, while GL will have another chance in Qualifier 2. De Villiers was the star of the show for RCB with an unbeaten 79, adding an invaluable undefeated 91  runs with No. 8 Iqbal Abdulla. Kulkarni nearly won the match for GL with figures of 4 for 14, accounting for Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle, KL Rahul, and Sachin Baby, but in the end the genius of de Villiers won through. Full Cricket Scorecard: Gujarat Lions vs Royal Challengers Bangalore, IPL 2016 Qualifier 1 at Bengaluru

The laws of reality finally caught up with Virat Kohli, who was bowled by Kulkarni for a 2-ball duck. Chris Gayle was then knocked over by Kulkarni for 9 and KL Rahul edged to Dwayne Smith at slip first ball. RCB were now 25 for 3 in only 3.3 overs — a reflection of what happened to GL earlier in the match. With Kulkarni in the middle of a red-hot spell and wickets tumbling, the need of the hour was sensibility. Shane Watson and Sachin Baby had other ideas though; Watson edged Ravindra Jadeja to Smith at slip for 1 while going for a big slog and Baby struck Kulkarni to Shadab Jakati for a duck. RCB were now in the mire at 29 for 5. Full Cricket Blog: Gujarat Lions vs Royal Challengers Bangalore, IPL 2016 Qualifier 1 at Bengaluru

In walked Stuart Binny at No. 7, and a period of stability followed for RCB. With a composed de Villiers at one end, Binny started playing some percentage shots to regain some momentum for RCB. He struck 21 off 15 balls with 2 fours and 1 six before getting out LBW to Jadeja. Replays showed that Binny was struck outside the line of off stump and was unfortunate to be given out.

But Binny had played an important innings, and with de Villiers batting fluently all that was needed was someone to give him company. Iqbal Abdulla proved to be the perfect foil for de Villiers. Abdulla batted sensibly and with minimal risk. He ended up scoring the winning runs, remaining unbeaten on 33 off 25 balls while de Villiers played the match-winning innings to score an undefeated 79 off 47 deliveries.

Earlier, Iqbal Abdulla and Shane Watson reduced Gujarat Lions (GL) to 9 for 3 before Dwayne Smith made a brilliant counterattacking 73 that took his side to 158 all out against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in Qualifier 1 of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2016 at Bengaluru on Tuesday. Sreenath Aravind opened bowling and started well before Abdulla struck twice in the second over to take out both opening batsmen, Brendon McCullum and Aaron Finch. Watson then came on to bowl first-change and snapped up Suresh Raina as well to leave GL in the mire at 9 for 3.

Aravind started with a probing first over which produced just 2 runs. That, combined with the pressure of a playoff match, prompted McCullum to go big over cover off the left-arm spin of Abdulla. He did not find the middle of the bat, and ended up giving an easy chance to AB de Villiers. Finch got a risky boundary but edged to Chris Gayle at slip a couple of balls later. Skipper Raina, batting at No. 3, was not able to make an impression, pulling a short-ish ball from Watson straight to Aravind at short fine leg. GL were now in tatters at 9 for 3.

That brought in Smith. The West Indian all-rounder cracked back-to-back boundaries off Abdulla off the fifth and sixth balls he faced, and followed up with a superb six off Chris Jordan. A couple of quiet overs followed, but Smith still had a lot in store. GL were 42 for 3 after 9 overs before Smith cut loose. The 10th over, bowled by Yuzvendra Chahal, went for 16 runs which included a six and two fours. Smith hit Chahal for another six in his next over as well before laying into Abdulla. Smith got to his half-century with a four and a six, reaching the landmark off 32 balls.

Jordan finally had Dinesh Karthik bowled for a hard-working 26 off 30 balls. Smith kept going, but GL again started losing wickets at the other end. Ravindra Jadeja slashed to Gayle off Watson for 3 before Chahal finally got the big wicket of Smith, caught brilliantly by Kohli at long on. Smith had scored a potentially game-changing 73 off 41 balls.

The young Eklavya Dwivedi managed to hit a couple of sparkling shots before holing out to Kohli off Watson for 19 off 9 balls. The dismissal provided a bit of drama; Kohli took the catch and threw the ball to the bowler amid no real celebrations. The umpire deemed the batsman not out, so Kohli had to claim the catch and argue his case. The third umpire was consulted and it was deemed that the catch was clean. Dwayne Bravo was bowled off the next ball, but again the third umpire was called upon, this time to check for a back-foot no-ball. Again it was ruled in favour of the bowler, so Watson finished with 4 for 29. Jordan finished off well

Brief scores:

Gujarat Lions 158 in 20 overs (Dwayne Smith 73; Shane Watson 4 for 29) lost to 159 for 6 in 18.2 overs (AB de Villiers 79*; Dhawal Kulkarni 4 for 14) Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Man of the Match: AB de Villiers

Full Scorecard

(Shiamak Unwalla, a reporter with CricketCountry, is an animal lover and comic, film and TV geek. A fast bowler at heart, he enjoys watching a good, low-scoring game of cricket. His Twitter handle is @ShiamakUnwalla)