If the organizers of the Champions League were praying for a great start to the third edition, their prayers were answered on the opening night on Friday.
In a game that swayed like a pendulum, the Warriors from South Africa showed great heart as they clinched a thrilling last-ball win over hosts Royal Challengers Bangalore. They stunned a modest but totally partisan crowd into silence at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.
There were many heroes in the visitors camp but none bigger than Ashwell Prince who showed he is fit to be king. After landing here, the veteran Warriors opener had insisted that he enjoyed the T20 format and that it wasn’t fair to be branded otherwise. On Friday night he walked the talk, playing a firm hand as last year’s runners-up chased down RCB’s stiff 172 with three wickets to spare.
There was a stage when RCB, through the efforts of their skipper Daniel Vettori, seemed to have pulled it back. But with Prince (74, 55b, 6×4, 3×6) holding the fort up almost till the end, Warriors skipper Johan Botha came in and played a cameo. Chasing the RCB run rate for most part but not out of sight at any stage, Botha (42, 24b, 2×4, 3×6) upped the ante just when it was required to ensure a winning start.
It was their wonderful 73-run (39 balls) stand for the fifth wicket that ensured the late strikes of local lads Abhimanyu Mithun and S Arvind didn’t add up to a home win.
Earlier, asked to bat by Botha on a clear night, RCB got off to a stuttering start losing opener Mayank Agarwal to the fourth ball of the innings. Thereafter though, RCB, with decent partnerships almost right through, played it smart.
Gayle (23, 14b, 2×4, 2×6), who in his brief stay turned on his usual fury, a flat batted six in the second over getting the modest crowd going, was always going to be the dangerman. A slow bouncer from Wayne Parnell induced a mishit from Gayle which Botha ran back a good 10-15 yards from mid on and grabbed it one-handed.
Normally that would have signalled a RCB collapse but on the night it was different. First Virat Kohli (34, 29b, 4×4), playing some genuine cricketing shots, and AB De Villiers (31, 25b, 1×4, 2×6) batted superbly.
Then despite Botha ringing the changes, Saurabh Tiwary (28, 15b, 2×2, 2×6) first and Mohd Kaif later (26, 20b, 1×4, 2×6), surprised everyone with some audacious strokes to keep the pressure on the bowling on a deck where the ball came on nicely.
For the Warriors, Juan Theron, taken for 14 in his first over by Gayle, finished with four for 29, showing that at times there are benefits to bowling at the death.
Brief Scores: Royal Challengers Bangalore 172/8 (Kohli 34, AB de Villiers 31, Tiwary 28, Kaif 26; Juan Theron 4/29) lost to Warrior 173/7 (Prince 74, Botha 42; Mithun 2/25, Aravind 2/32)