Virat Kohli urged his Royal Challengers Bangalore colleagues to play “even more fearlessly” after they secured progress to the Indian Premier League play-offs on Sunday.
Bangalore’s six-run win over Punjab Kings at Sharjah Cricket Stadium means they are now assured of at least a place in the eliminator finals.
With two matches still to play, it remains possible they could yet leapfrog Chennai Super Kings or Delhi Capitals — who currently occupy the top two places in the table.
That would bring with it a place in the qualifier final on Sunday, which provides the teams with two shots — if required - at making it to the final.
“[To have] eight wins out of 12 games is a great campaign,” said Kohli, who will be stepping down from the Bangalore captaincy at the end of this season.
“We have two more opportunities to finish in the top two. That should give us motivation to play even more fearlessly.”
The rate of scoring was improved slightly on the previous games in Sharjah, but no one managed to strike as freely as Glenn Maxwell.
The in-form Australian set the platform for Bangalore’s win with 57 from 33 balls, which was his fifth half-century in the competition so far this season, as Bangalore posted 174 for seven.
Punjab are still mathematically able to take fourth place in the competition, but it is highly unlikely, given their poor net run-rate.
“With the bat, the last couple of years have been disappointing,” KL Rahul, Punjab’s captain, said.
“If I have to be honest, our batting has let us down. I'll be lying if I say it doesn't play on my mind that I play a role that the team demands.
“It's not something that I enjoy, but when you lead the team, you have to accept the responsibility.”
In the second game of the day, Kolkata Knight Riders pushed themselves closer to the fourth play-off berth, as they beat Sunrisers Hyderabad by six wickets at the Dubai International Stadium.
Shubman Gill top scored with 54 as Kolkata chased the 115 for eight posted by beleaguered Hyderabad with two balls to spare.