Royal Challengers Bangalore scored a comprehensive 43-run victory over Mumbai Indians in the second play-off at the M A Chidambaram stadium in Chennai on Friday to seal a berth in the final of the fourth edition of the Indian Premier League.
Bangalore will take on defending champions Chennai Super Kings at the same venue on Saturday, hoping to win the title for the first time. They finished runners-up to Deccan Chargers in the second edition of the tournament, in 2009.
Chasing a mammoth 186 to win, Mumbai Indians, beaten finalists last year, could only score 142 for eight in their stipulated 20 overs.
So vapid was the display of the Mumbai team on Friday that it was impossible to believe that they were the runaway leaders after the initial 10 matches.
Chris Gayle again walked away with the man-of-the-match honours for scoring a spectacular 89.
Gayle, in scoring his third half century of the season (he also has two centuries), took his tournament aggregate to 608 in just 11 games (@ 76.00). The former West Indies captain, having made a significant contribution to Bangalore's fortunes since his arrival, looks set to win the Orange Cap.
And his Bangalore captain Daniel Vettori, with figures of three for 19, ensured the Mumbai innings went off the track even before it would get some momentum.
It was Bangalore's 10th win in 16 matches in the tournament. Their 17th and last match will be against a side that has beaten them twice in three matches this year.
Moreover, playing at home gives Chennai a distinct advantage, considering they haven't yet lost at Chepauk this season.
However, Bangalore's renewed confidence, as also the fact that won't be too keen to finish second best again, will ensure they deliver their best on the given day.
Chennai though remain clear favourites going into the decider.
Earlier, Gayle's magnificent knock propelled Bangalore to what eventually turned out to be a winning score (185 for four).
The Bangalore innings got off to a spectacular start, with Gayle scoring a whopping 27 runs off the opening over, bowled by Abu Nechim.
The Caribbean ace and Mayank Agarwal (41) put on 113 runs, inside 11 overs, for the opening wicket before the latter was caught by Rohit Sharma off Pollard at long-on. Three balls earlier the same fielder had given Agarwal a reprieve off the same bowler.
Gayle though continued with his aggression, first smashing Pollard over long-on for maximum, following it up with successive maximums off Harbhajan off the next ball, both over deep midwicket.
The in-form West Indies player was eventually dismissed by Munaf, brilliant caught by James Franklin at long-on, just inches off the boundary.
However, by then he had done the damage. His 47-ball knock was inclusive off nine hits to the fence and five over it.
Virat Kohli (8) didn't last long, Abu Nechim rattling his stumps. And neither did Luke Pommersbach (4), caught by Malinga at short third man to give Munaf his second wicket.
Three wickets in three overs and Mumbai seemed back in the game. However, AB de Villiers (21 not out) ensured Bangalore finished well.
Overall, while Bangalore scored 111 runs in the first 10 overs, they could only manage 74 in the final 10.
Sreenath Aravind ensured Bangalore a good start with the ball, claiming two wickets early on. The seamer first had Aiden Blizzard (10) caught by Agarwal at long-on.
Harbhajan (13) was again promoted up the order. The offie helped himself to a boundary and a maximum in Abhimanyu Mithun's first over. However, the move largely backfired.
Aravind had him caught by Pommersbach at deep square leg.
Sachin Tendulkar played a quick cameo, his 24-ball 40 inclusive of seven hits to the fence. However, he was a foxed by the change of length by Syed Mohammad and AB de Villiers did some smart work behind the stumps.
Mumbai 68 for three after the eighth over.
And if that wasn't enough, worse was to follow three overs later. Vettori, bowling what was his third over of the day, struck twice with successive balls to derail the Mumbai innings.
The Bangalore skipper first had Rohit Sharma (13) caught by Pommersbach at sweeper cover and then trapped Ambati Rayudu (0) leg before. The finalists of last year were reduced to 83 for five after 11 overs and the writing was on the wall.
Vettori had the out-of-form Pollard (0) caught by Mithun at long-off in his last over to signal the end of Mumbai's innings was just a matter of time.