The IPL 2014 playoff picture for the oh-so crucial fourth place just does not seem to clear up. If the Royal Challengers Bangalore had won on Tuesday, they would have taken a major step towards sealing the final playoff place, while also eliminating a couple of teams.
However, with a packed-to-the-rafters crowd imploring their home side to fashion a first win at their own ground, the Sunrisers Hyderabad stepped up with their most assured chase of the season, easing to the target of 161 with two balls to spare.
RCB chose to bat first for a change, and put on 160 for six, a par score really, with Virat Kohli (67) striking his first half-century in IPL 2014. SRH, though, refused to fold up tamely, like they have done in their last three matches at home, with Shikhar Dhawan (50) and David Warner (59) putting on a century opening partnership, before Naman Ojha, Aaron Finch and Darren Sammy saw their side home to keep that playoff scenario very much alive and kicking.
The win for SRH means they are now tied with RCB on ten points from 12 matches each, with KKR, in fourth place, able to pull clear by four points of the chasing pack, if they can manage a victory at the Eden Gardens against the Chennai Super Kings in the late game.
With a win the only acceptable result, Dhawan and Warner needed to step up, and they did, with the duo putting on a brilliant 100-run opening stand to set the game up for the rest of the batsmen.
Both players looked in supreme touch, particularly Dhawan, who after being freed of the captaincy, just looked that little bit happier with the pressure off his shoulders. The shots through the offside were in full view from the elegant left-hander, while Warner, with his belligerence and innovativeness, put the RCB bowlers to shade as the Australian enjoyed himself back in the opening slot.
The switch hit and those big thwacks to the stands were in full view from Warner, while Dhawan played a serene knock, picking up boundaries with ridiculous ease. The two left-handers were easing their side to the target as RCB, equally desperate for a win, searched for that special moment of inspiration from the bowlers.
It was the SRH batsmen, who gifted a breakthrough, though, with Dhawan (50, 39b, 7x4, 1x6) running himself out when he looked set to take his team over the line.
At the fall of Dhawan's wicket, SRH needed 61 from 45 deliveries, and with Warner looking in control, the home side were very much the favourites.
Naman Ojha was sent in at No.3 again and, along with Warner, brought the target down to 35 from 24, before Varun Aaron picked up the vital wicket of Warner (59, 46b, 3x4, 4x6) -- the Australian unable to clear Yuvraj Singh at cover off a near waist-high full toss.
With Finch in the locker, though, RCB still needed to bowl out of their skins as the target read 20 from the final two overs, with Ojha (24, 20b, 2x6) cutting the target considerably with a six, only to perish in the next ball. Sunrisers needn't have worried, though, as skipper Darren Sammy came in, smoked a flat six straight back first ball, before finishing things off calmly in the final over.
Earlier, the Royal Challengers Bangalore threatened to break free and post one of those did-you-see-that totals, with their big men coming to the fore, only to lose momentum, no less because of some good bowling from SRH, and settle for a we're-gonna-have-to-bowl-brilliantly-to-defend-this score.
The start was not great with Parthiv Patel falling in the first over, trapped plumb in front by a beautiful in-dipper from Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Chris Gayle, after his important yet far from trademark knock in the win over CSK, yet again did not look anything remotely like his flowing best, finding it difficult to get the ball thudding onto the middle of his bat.
Kohli, at the other end, though, looked more like his usual self and also determined to make a score of note. The two explosive duo hung around for around four overs together, putting on just 18 runs, before the inevitable Gayle wicket came – the left-hander getting a leading edge to short third man off Karn Sharma's first delivery of the innings.
Parvez Rasool finally got a game, in place of Amit Mishra, who has just been way too expensive in IPL 2014, and the off-spinner made full use of his selection, bowling intelligently, conceding just 26 runs in his four overs, while also scalping Yuvraj.
Yuvraj has found some serious form in the last few games, and the left-hander came in at the fall of Gayle's wicket. But, the India veteran never looked at home, mistiming way too many shots, with only luck saving him on quite a few occasions as the ball kept landing just short of the fielders.
Kohli, at the other end, though, was getting in the mood, striking some delightful boundaries, with that patented drive over extra cover coming to the fore much to the delight of the fans, even the ones of the home side.
Yuvraj hit a couple of boundaries as well, but just could not find his timing and it was no surprise when he holed out in the deep off Rasool after a difficult 25-ball 21 (2x4, 1x6).
AB De Villiers came in and hit his stride immediately as RCB;s two best batsmen went about dismantling the SRH attack, taking a couple of massive overs. The writing seemed to be on the wall for the Sunrisers, with Kohli (67, 41b, 4x4, 4x6) and De Villiers (29, 17b, 2x4, 1x6) in six-hitting mood, however, the former found Steyn at long-off in the 18th over off Irfan Pathan, which quelled all the momentum.
De Villiers, the onus now on him to spank a few in the final couple of overs, also fell soon after, castled by the excellent Bhuvneshwar (4-0-27-2), as RCB picked up just 14 runs in the last 12 balls to finish on a round-figure 160, which SRH hunted down easily enough.