AB de Villiers played one of his most influential T20 innings when he took the Royal Challengers to a four-wicket win over the Gujarat Lions in a No 1 qualifying match.
As his illustrious teammates crashed around him, he produced a brilliantly weighted innings of 79 off 47, with five fours and five sixes, taking the Challengers from 29-5 in the sixth over to victory with 10 balls to spare.
The Challengers now progress straight to the final while the Lions will get another crack, taking on the winner of the eliminator between Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad.
The Challengers looked home and hosed when they held the Lions to a paltry 158, but they were hammered back by Dhawal Kulkarni, who took 4-8 in three overs.
Virat Kohli, the form batsman of the series, chopped on for 0, Chris Gayle (9) went for a big swipe and missed it and Rahul nicked for another 0. Sachin Baby followed soon after with a wild slap for the third 0.
De Villiers stood firm, but it seemed there was little he could do in the face of such destruction. Ravindra Jadeja weighed in by removing Shane Watson (1) and Stuart Binny, who tried his best with 21 off 15. They were reeling at 68-6 after 10 overs.
But De Villiers consolidated his base with support from Stuart Binny (21 from 15), and Iqbal Abdulla with a massively important 33 from 25 balls. They put on 91 at 10.5 an over to bring about a most unlikely win.
It should not have been this difficult. Earlier, having put the Lions in to bat, the Challengers were cruising. The second over of the day seemed pivotal when Brendon McCullum (1) and Aaron Finch (4) fell within four balls to the left-arm spin of Iqbal Abdulla. It only got worse when Suresh Raina also departed, well taken at short fine-leg as he tried to pull Watson. The Lions were 9-3 in the fourth over
Dwayne Smith and Dinesh Karthik desperately tried to repair the damage, putting on 85 in 10 overs. Smith was particularly brutal, striking at a rate of 182.5 and racing to his 73 off 41 balls with five fours and six sixes. Karthik was a mere anchor, taking 30 balls for his 26.
Eklavya Dwivedi added his muscle, too, with 19 off nine, but the wickets tumbled in the rush and no one was prepared to stand and deliver. Watson was the main beneficiary, ending with 4-29.
25 May, Eliminator: Sunrisers Hyderabad vs Kolkata Knight Riders
27 May, Qualifier 2: Gujarat Lions v winner of Eliminator
29 May: Final: Royal Challengers Bangalore v TBD.