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Smith and Faulkner steal epic heist

Chasing 191 was always going to need something special, and Rajasthan Royals got it from Steven Smith and James Faulkner, who is fast becoming the embodiment of the modern-day ice man. In a counter-attacking partnership of 85 in just 38 balls that came from the depths of 106 for 5, the Australian pair pulled RR out of the mire and completed a chase of 191 with seven deliveries remaining, leaving Royal Challengers Bangalore shell-shocked.

Smith finished not out on 48 off 21 balls and Faulkner unbeaten on 41 off 17, which included a stunning sequence of 6, 2, 4 and 6 that made a mockery of the situation. With this win, Royals moved to third on the IPL 7 leader board with 12 points.

How was it possible, you ask? That will take some answering, but after the defeat RCB captain Virat Kohli mumbled something about his bowlers not being able to hit any yorkers at the death. In truth, on a true batting surface encouraging hard-hitting and with small square boundaries the margin of error for the quicker bowlers was minimal, and RCB’s trio of Mitchell Starc, Ashok Dinda and Varun Aaron bowled too many hit-me deliveries. It still required some special batting and Smith and Faulkner produced just that, finishing a match that looked out of their grasp with an astonishing partnership. The pair scored 65 runs off the last 17 balls of the match.

When the pair joined at the fall of Karun Nair for 56, the fourth wicket to fall to Yuvraj Singh, RR’s asking rate had been in excess of 13. With four overs left, that jumped to past 16. No matter to Smith and Faulkner. Faulker smashed his Australia team-mate Starc for two fours and a six in the 17th, Smith hit Dinda for 23 off the 18th, and Faulkner completed a sensation five-wicket win with 17 in four balls from Aaron. It was unbelievable batting.

This amazing finish shoved into the background a memorable and pulsating all-round demonstration from Yuvraj, who had almost single-handedly left RCB on course for a win. In an all-round impact not seen since since the 2011 World Cup, Yuvraj blasted 83 off 38 balls to boost RCB to 190 for 5 and then derailed RR’s chase with 4 for 35.

Joined at 40 for 3 following the wickets of Kohli (4), Chris Gayle (19) and Vijay Zol (16), Yuvraj and de Villiers put on 132 in 65 balls with the left-hander dominating. He began aggressively with three fours in first eight balls and from the offset favoured the legside heavily, sweeping and lofting with precision and power, and raised his second fifty of the season off 24 balls with a massive off Kane Richardson.

Loosening his shoulders after Yuvraj’s assault on Shane Watson, AB de Villiers smashed Faulkner for successive sixes and sliced Richardson over extra cover for four, before Yuvraj slammed two sixes off the Australian quick in the same over. He fell trying to dump another over square leg for six, but de Villiers took two more sixes off Faulkner’s 20th over to ensure a big target had been set. RCB scored 84 off the last five overs.

The Royals’ chase was given a 54-run start from Nair and Ajinkya Rahane but unfolded with three wickets in 12 deliveries, two of them coming to Yuvraj in one over. Rahane (24) fell to the first delivery of the eighth over, cutting Yuzvendra Chahal into Parthiv Patel’s gloves. Watson entered at No 3 with the asking rate inching towards 11 and departed after five balls, bowled when trying to cut Yuvraj. Three balls later, Stuart Binny’s brain fade resulted in a catch out to deep extra cover with Yuvraj bellowing in celebration. From 54 for 0, RR were 63 for 3.

Yuvraj pocketed a third when Sanju Samson popped back a simple return catch, and completed his spell by bowling Nair for 56, meaning that RR had lost half their side with 106 on the board. Then came an unforgettable alliance from two outstanding Australian cricketers.

Brief scores: ? Royal Challengers Bangalore 190 for 5 in 20 overs (Yuvraj Singh 83, AB de Villiers 58) lost to Rajasthan Royals 191 for 5 in 18.5 overs (Karun Nair 56, Steven Smith 48*, James Faulkner 21*, Yuvraj 4/35) by five wickets.

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