King Kallis keeps Bangalore IPL hopes alive

JOHANNESBURG: Jacques Kallis struck an unbeaten 58 and took a key wicket as Royal Challengers Bangalore beat leaders Delhi Daredevils by seven wickets Tuesday to stay in the Indian Premier League title hunt.

The big South African batted throughout the 19-over Bangalore innings as they reached 135-3 in reply to 134-7 in 20 overs from Delhi, who are sure to finish first with one round of group fixtures left.

But below them the stage is set for a thrilling climax to the round-robin phase of the Twenty20 extravaganza on Wednesday and Thursday with five franchises chasing three semi-finals places.

Chennai Super Kings have 15 points, Deccan Chargers, Bangalore and Kings XI Punjab 14 each and defending champions Rajasthan Royals 13 with double-headers to come in Durban and Centurion.

While many in the team dug-outs at the Wanderers used blankets to fend off the autumn chill, a good crowd turned up at one of the homes of South African cricket and were treated to a tense struggle until the final few overs.

Winning skipper and India legend Anil Kumble claimed he is not even checking the standings traffic-jam, but concentrating on masterminding another win when they face Deccan Thursday.

"I'm taking this tournament one game at a time and not looking at the table. All I'm thinking about is how to win the next match which would guarantee us a place in the semi-finals."

Kallis said his role was critical: "In big games senior players must come through and I knew that someone had to stay at the crease for the innings. After a run of four losses, the hunger for success is back in the team."

Delhi captain Virender Sehwag offered no excuses after only their fourth loss in 13 outings: "Perhaps the boys were a little relaxed knowing that we were through, but there is nothing for us to worry about."

Bangalore made a dream start as Praveen Kumar dismissed Sehwag and Mithun Manhas for ducks within five balls and Kallis took the wicket of opener Gautam Gambhir (27 runs) to leave Delhi struggling on 37-3 after six overs.

Wicketkeeper Dinish Karthik (31) and South African AB de Villiers (28) were the highest Delhi scorers while Kumar (3-30) and Kumble (2-24) impressed with the ball for Bangalore.

Challengers also began poorly with Robin Uthappa departing in the first over for one and while Kallis and Rahul Dravid steadied the innings, the runs came slowly with Bangalore making only 54-1 by the 10-over 'strategy time out'.

Dravid went for 38, but a quickfire 25 from New Zealander Ross Taylor gave momentum to the run chase and by the time two-sixes Kallis reached his fourth IPL half century in the 18th over, the outcome was inevitable.