Jos Buttler paid tribute to former Rajasthan Royals captain Shane Warne after the England batsman hit an unbeaten 106 to lead his team into the IPL final.
Rajasthan rode on Buttler’s record-equalling fourth century of the tournament to hammer Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore by seven wickets and book a title clash with Gujarat Titans.
Chasing 158 for victory at the world’s biggest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad, Rajasthan reached their target with 11 balls to spare in the second qualifier as Buttler equalled Kohli’s record of four tons in an IPL season.
It will be the second final appearance for Rajasthan who won the inaugural edition in 2008 under late Australian hero Warne who is called the “first Royal” by the team.
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“To be able to get the opportunity to go and play in the final of the biggest T20 tournament in the world is incredibly exciting,” said Buttler, who leads the tournament’s batting chart with 824 runs.
On emulating Warne in reaching the final, Buttler said: “You mention Shane Warne, he is such an influential figure for the Rajasthan Royals and having led the team to success in that first season, we will miss him dearly, but we know he is looking down on us with a lot of pride today.”
The spin legend’s death from a suspected heart attack aged 52 on March 4 shocked the cricketing world, with Royals saying he “made us believe”.
Rajasthan fans held lifesize posters of Warne at the 132,000 capacity stadium which had a large attendance.
Fast bowlers Prasidh Krishna and Obed McCoy took three wickets each to restrict Bangalore to 157-8 and set up victory for Rajasthan.
The final will played on Sunday at the same venue after Gujarat, in their debut season, beat Rajasthan in the first qualifier early this week.
Buttler got the Royals off to a flier with a 61-run opening stand in 31 balls with the left-handed Yashasvi Jaiswal who fell to Australian seamer Josh Hazlewood at the start of the sixth over.
Buttler reached his hundred and punched the air in delight and then hit the winning six to extend Bangalore’s wait for a first IPL title.
His 106 not out came from 60 balls and included 10 fours and six sixes.
The in-form Englishman hit three centuries in the first half of the IPL before hitting a brief lull only to come back with an 89 albeit in a lost cause in the first play-off.
“I had a season of two halves, and had very honest conversations with people really close to me,” revealed Buttler.
“I was feeling the pressure midway, and it was only about a week ago that I opened up about it. It helped me and I went to Kolkata with a freer mind and that innings gave me the confidence that helped today.”
Earlier Bangalore lost Kohli for seven after their former captain hit New Zealand left-arm quick Trent Boult for a six in the opening over but soon fell to Krishna in the next.
Kohli, who hit a match-winning 73 in his team’s last league match after a largely difficult season featuring three golden ducks, saw a pitch invader touch his gloves after the first ball of the match.
Skipper Faf du Plessis put on a 70-run stand with Rajat Patidar as the pair attempted to take the attack to the opposition bowlers.
Patidar, who made an unbeaten 112 in Wednesday’s eliminator against Lucknow Super Giants, fought a lone battle after being dropped on 13.
Du Plessis did not have any such luck and was caught at first slip for 25 off McCoy, who returned figures of 3-23.
Patidar reached his fifty with a six off leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal but soon fell to Ravichandran Ashwin as Buttler took a well-judged catch at long off.
Wickets kept tumbling as Krishna took two from successive deliveries in the 19th over to return figures of 3-22 from his four.