An aggressive half-century by skipper Virat Kohli (56 not out, 29b, 6x4, 4x6) and four-for by Zaheer Khan carried Royal Challengers Bangalore to a 24-run win over league leaders Chennai Super Kings here Saturday and kept their play-off hopes alive in the Pepsi IPL tournament.
Put into bat after a delayed start due to rains that reduced the game to eight overs a side, RCB blasted their way to 106 for two with Kohli leading from the front and putting on 67 with Chris Gayle (28, 13b, 4x6) in just 32 balls.
CSK's response was rather tepid in comparison despite a fighting 19-ball 32 by Murali Vijay and their challenge virtually dissipated when Zaheer Khan removed Michael Hussey (5) and Suresh Raina (0) in consecutive deliveries in the second over as the hosts eventually finished on 82 for six.
Zaheer Khan, who picked up two more wickets in his final over, finished with four for 17.
RCB finished their league engagements with 18 points and will now hope that KKR turn out to be 'party poopers' for Hyderabad Sunrisers which will ensure their passage in play-offs by virtue of better net run-rate.
Zaheer Khan's twin strikes in his very first over in which he conceded just three runs, broke the back of CSK's chase with Hussey edging to 'keeper Lokesh Rahul and then Raina holing out in the deep off the first ball he faced.
Thereafter, the CSK chase progressed in fits and starts while they lost the big-hitting Dwayne Bravo (9) in the fourth over with the total on 29 while the exit of Vijay who had batted well for 32 in the seventh over effectively ended the visitors' challenge as they slid to 56 for four.
A few lusty blows by Dhoni (24) had little impact apart from providing some thrilling moments to his fans while he departed in the final over, being the third victim of Zaheer Khan who then went on to remove Ravindra Jadeja with a superb reflex return catch in the final over.
Earlier, Kohli took it upon himself to raise a gallop at the start of the innings as he unleashed a series of well-timed shots against off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin who went for 21 runs in two and Chris Morris (22 off two) while at the other end, Gayle opted to play second fiddle.
The fifth over, bowled by young Jason Holder, yielded 20 runs as Gayle smashed three consecutive sixes as the seamer erred in line and length while proving to be a fodder and RCB raced to 66 for no loss after five overs.
However, Super Kings struck two quick blows in the space of six deliveries as Dwayne Bravo unlucky to see Kohli, then on 34, being dropped first ball by Dhoni, dismissed Gayle next ball, caught at extra-cover by Hussey and in the very next over, young Mohit Sharma had AB de Villiers (5) caught in the deep by Jadeja.
The twin dismissals did not stop Kohli from continuing his onslaught as he completed a half-century in the final over that was plundered for 16 runs, slamming Bravo for two sixes and a boundary, and RCB finished on 106 for two.