By Anand Philar
Chennai, (IANS) Royal Challengers Bangalore, powered by Chris Gayle's brilliant 89 off 47 balls, outclassed Mumbai Indians by 43 runs here on Friday to set up a clash with champions Chennai Super Kings in the final of the Indian Premier League in less than 24 hours.
Mumbai Indians tumbled to defeat as much due to some questionable decisions and tactics as Gayle's blitz helped the Royal Challengers post 185 for four and then they dawdled to 142 for eight in their chase that never really fired.
In the process, Gayle crossed the 600-run mark in the current IPL and he will have a major role to play on the morrow against the Super Kings, unbeaten at home this season, as also skipper and left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori who showed impressive form while taking three for 19.
Winning the toss, Mumbai skipper Sachin Tendulkar opted to field rather than bat first on a pitch that was known to get progressively slower to make any chase over 160 extremely difficult, if not impossible.
Making matters worse for Mumbai was asking an inexperienced Abu Nachim to open the bowling ahead of proven match-winners like Lasith Malinga and Munaf Patel.
Nachim promptly conceded 27 runs in the very first over and it set the tone for the rest of the innings and Bangalore never really looked back while the Mumbai Indians conceded as many as 14 wides and a no-ball.
After being hit all over the park, Mumbai's hopes rested on Tendulkar who, in another strange decision, preferred to hold back his big-hitters like Kieron Pollard and James Franklin when the side needed a quick start to match the nine-plus asking rate.
As such, the chase was never really on, especially after the loss of two early wickets, followed by Tendulkar's (40) dismissal as the Mumbai batsmen, feeling the pressure, threw caution to the winds. Not that they had much choice, but Mumbai paid the price for their follies.
On Tendulkar's dismissal, Vettori then tightened the screws by removing key batsmen, Rohit Sharma (13), Ambatti Rayudu (0) and Pollard (3) in nine deliveries to effectively close the match as Mumbai tottered on the brink at 89 for six in the 13th over. It was all over bar the shouting.
At the outset, it was obviously Gayle vs Mumbai Indians with the Jamaican going hell for leather and it was like a bull ring in the middle. Gayle simply destroyed the Mumbai attack.
Gayle, although enjoying slices of luck with edges going to the boundary, showcased his power that sent the ball screaming over the ropes and the Mumbai players went into nail-biting mode, clueless to stop the onslaught.
With Agarwal playing a most sensible innings and occasionally chipping in with the big hit, Bangalore were in an overdrive and raised visions of a 200-plus total.
In fact, Gayle barely missed a beat even after the exit of Agarwal in the 11th over and looked set for his third century in this IPL only to hole out in the deep, attempting another big hit.
Gayle's dismissal transformed the Mumbai attack and with Munaf and Malinga spot on in their line and length, Bangalore lost two more wickets, including that of in-form Virat Kohli (12).
Yet, a 180-plus total on a pitch that was progressively slowing down looked good enough for Bangalore to win the game by some margin.