BANGALORE (India) • Virat Kohli hailed Royal Challengers Bangalore team-mate A.B. de Villiers as the best batsman in world cricket after the South African hit an unbeaten 79 to single-handedly steer the franchise into the Indian Premier League cricket final.
"I think this should settle the debate about who is the best in the world," the skipper said after Bangalore beat Gujarat Lions by four wickets in the first qualifier on Tuesday.
"Come the big game, the big man steps up. I just bow down to him. Probably one of the best knocks under pressure I have seen."
Chasing 159 for victory at Bangalore's M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, the Royal Challengers were reduced to 68 for six before de Villiers' blitz fired the team home in 18.2 overs.
Gujarat medium pacer Dhawal Kulkarni (4-14) hurt Bangalore with early strikes as openers Kohli (0) and Chris Gayle (9) were back in the dugout early.
Coming in at No. 3, De Villiers stayed calm to stitch an unbeaten 91-run partnership with Iqbal Abdullah (33) to stun the opposition in front of a raucous home crowd.
Man-of-the-match De Villiers smashed five fours and five sixes in just 47 balls to snatched victory.
"To be honest with you, I am just humbled. I didn't think it was possible to win from there when I started batting and when we were five or six down," de Villiers told iplt20.com. "I thought 'Oh, we are in trouble,' and it was a big mountain to climb from there on."
Put in to bat, Gujarat rode on West Indies batsman Dwayne Smith's 41-ball 73 to post a respectable 158 all out in 20 overs.
Smith lifted Gujarat from a precarious nine for three to stitch an 85-run fourth-wicket partnership with Dinesh Karthik as the duo counter-attacked.
The Windies all-rounder took charge to teach the Bangalore spinners a bitter lesson as he smashed five boundaries and six sixes during his entertaining knock.
Leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal got the dangerous Smith back in the dugout as Australian all-rounder Shane Watson (4-29) wiped out the Gujarat tail.
After left-arm spinner Abdullah's double strike to get openers Brendon McCullum and Aaron Finch out early, it was Watson who hurt Gujarat's bid to score big.
Gujarat will have another shot at securing a final berth when they meet the winner of the eliminator in the second qualifier in New Delhi on tomorrow.