IPL: AB patiently hunts victory for RCB from Gujarat Lions

Bengaluru: Royal Challengers Bangalore batsmen AB De Villiers and Iqbal Abdullah guided the team to a four-wicket win against Gujarat Lions in the first qualifier of IPL match on Tuesday at the Chinnaswami stadium here. RCB scored 159/6 to snatch the victory from the Lions with 10 balls to spare. With an asking rate of 7.5 runs in 20 overs, Royal Challengers started off shakily, losing wickets early. Gujarat Lions bowler Dhawal Kulkarni ripped apart RCB top order, castling both the openers Virat Kohli for duck and Chris Gayle nine. Three Royal Challengers batsmen suffered duck-out fate, Kohli, Rahul and Baby. RCB was 65/5 midway through the sixth over and lost another wicket before the end of 10 overs. It was at this difficult juncture that star South African batsman De Villiers took the onus of steering the team to victory aided by Stuart Binny (21) and Abdulla (33) later. De Villiers remained unbeaten at 79 in 47 balls with five fours and five sixes, playing slowly and responsibly initially but breaking free later after the 15th over to ensure the match was safe in the hands of Royal Challengers. Abdullah and De Villiers managed to grab 16 and 15 runs respectively in the 15th and 16th overs to lower the asking rate to 32 runs in 23 balls by the 17th over. And halfway through the 18th over, De Villiers and Abdullah managed to even the required number of runs and balls at 15 and finally claim the victory in the 19th over. The batsmen constructed an unbroken partnership of 91 runs in 52 balls. Kulkarni came out with the best bowling figures for Gujarat Lions with 4/14 with a splendid economy of just 3.50 while Jadeja was the only other bowler to claim wickets for the Lions with bowling figures of 2/21. Earlier, Gujarat Lions set RCB a target of 159 runs after Dwayne Smith (73) saved the day for the visitors, enabling them to cross 150 runs. After openers Brendon McCullum (1) and Aaron Finch (4) departed in the second over off left-arm spinner Abdullah, Smith rose to the rescue of his team with 73 runs in 41 balls, smashing five fours and six sixes. With just nine runs on the score board and two wickets down, Gujarat lost another crucial wicket, Suresh Raina (1) was caught by Sreenath Aravind off Shane Watson's bowling in the fourth over. With the top order crumbling, no boundaries were hit even after four overs, until Smith hit two in the fifth over. Only Dinesh Karthik (26) and Eklavya Dwivedi (19) made some contribution with the bat to put a respectable total, while other batsmen fizzled - Ravindra Jadeja (3), Dwayne Bravo (8), Praveen Kumar (5) and Dhawal Kulkarni (6). After 15 overs, the Lions managed to score 104/4 but Smith and Dwivedi powered it ahead until Royal Challengers captain Virat Kohli held two excellent catches in the long on area to send back Smith and Dwivedi, who had hit two sixes in the 19th. Electing to field first after winning the toss helped Kohli in not allowing a big total to the Lions. Watson 4/29 produced the best bowling figures, followed by Chris Jordan with 2/26 and Abdulla with 2/38, while bowling mainstay Yuzvendra Chahal managed only a wicket. De Villiers was adjudged the man of the match for his winning knock. Brief Scores: Royal Challenger Bangalore 159/6 in 18.2 overs (Abraham De Villiers 79, Iqbal Abdullah 33; Dhawal Kulkarni 4/14, Ravindra Jadeja 2/21) beat Gujarat Lions 158 in 20 overs (Dwayne Smith 73, Dinesh Karthik 26; Shane Watson 4/29, Chris Jordan 2/26)