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NEW DELHI: Virat Kohli praised the “very, very special” performance of unlikely hero Rajat Patidar after his match-winning ton put Royal Challengers Bangalore two victories away from their first IPL title.

Patidar hit an unbeaten 112 to become the first uncapped player in the Twenty20 tournament’s history to score a century in the play-offs as Bangalore surged past Lucknow Super Giants on Wednesday.

The Faf du Plessis-led side will take on Rajasthan Royals in Friday’s second qualifier in Ahmedabad, with the winners to take on Gujarat Titans in the final two days later at the same venue.

The 28-year-old Patidar, a top-order batsman who was drafted into the side midway through the tournament as an injury replacement, came to Bangalore’s rescue after the loss of Du Plessis for nought.

“I have seen many impact innings and many innings under pressure over so many years, but I have not seen better than how Rajat played today,” Kohli said in a post-game chat with man of the match and team-mate Patidar.

“The magnitude of the game was so big that I was feeling the tension in the air because I have been in those situations where you have to cross the line as a team,” added Kohli, whose own usually blistering form with the bat has come under scrutiny.

“So what he did was very, very special and I don’t think that anyone should take that for granted. You should understand the excellence of his innings and appreciate as a cricketer to watch an innings like that.”

Patidar put on key partnerships including a 66-run stand with Kohli, who made 25, and 92 runs with in-form wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik, who made 37 off 23 balls.

Patidar’s 54-ball knock was laced with 12 boundaries and seven sixes as he took the Lucknow bowlers by surprise at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens.

Patidar steered Bangalore to 207-4, a hefty total their bowlers defended by restricting Lucknow to 193-6. Bangalore’s Australian pace bowler Josh Hazlewood took three wickets.

“There were a few tense moments, obviously it was a big game, but I think our bowlers held their nerve very well,” said Kohli, 33, who has suffered three ‘golden ducks’ in the IPL this season.

Bangalore are into the play-offs for the third successive year but their IPL best has been two runners-up finishes in 2009 and 2016.

“Cannot wait to get to Ahmedabad and take the field again,” said Kohli.

“We are just so excited and happy with how things have gone. We just want to go further in this tournament.

“Hopefully two more games and then we all can celebrate.”

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