Bangalore: Chris Gayle played the sort of innings only he can to give Royal Challengers Bangalore the sort of win they desperately needed to keep their Champions League Twenty20 campaign alive. Gayle's assault ensured the margin of victory - 51 runs - was the largest of the tournament, and not only did it earn the Royal Challengers their first points but also dragged their previously negative net run-rate ahead of that of three other teams in Group B.
The Royal Challengers now need only to win their remaining game, against South Australia, by a reasonable margin to make the semi-finals. Despite the severity of today's defeat, though, Somerset also need only to win their last group game against Warriors to progress.
After defeats in their first two matches, the Royal Challengers were the only team without points, and Daniel Vettori lost the toss on a ground where teams prefer to chase. The trace of dismay in Vettori when Alfonso Thomas asked the Royal Challengers to bat, however, had disappeared long before they finished with the tournament's highest total - 206. It would have disappeared when Gayle was hitting eight of RCB's 14 sixes, on his way to 86 off 46 balls.
Somerset had their chances early in the match - two of them were difficult - to prevent this suffering but they didn't take them. Gayle was dropped in the second over, two balls after he had hit his first four to get off the mark. He miscued a loft off Steve Kirby over extra cover but Jos Buttler couldn't run back quickly enough. In Kirby's next over - the fourth off the innings - Gayle survived two run-out attempts off the same ball, both at the same end. He was 8 at the time.
Tillakaratne Dilshan, Gayle's opening partner, was also let off. He initiated the acceleration by scooping Peter Trego over past short fine leg, but when he tried to repeat it next ball, he didn't connect as well. Kirby, who had to run back from the circle, dived and pushed the ball towards the boundary. Dilshan then charged to blaze through cover, the third consecutive four, and also slogged over the long-on boundary to take 19 off the third over.
Gayle had thumped the ball to the boundary every now and then but his start was relatively sedate: only 29 came off his first 25 balls. By that time, Roelof van der Merwe had bowled Dilshan round his legs and Virat Kohli had begun striking the ball splendidly on a true pitch and a quick outfield. Kohli lofted Murali Kartik's left-arm spin for a four through extra cover and a six over long-off to take Bangalore to 87 for 1 after 10 overs.
A few minutes later Gayle had teleported to 53 off 31 balls, bringing up his half-century with a leg glance off Trego to the boundary. He had plundered George Dockrell's left-arm spin to get there, launching three sixes in the 11th over, over midwicket, long on and the sightscreen. He celebrated his fifty by sending Trego over the sightscreen and dismissed Kartik over midwicket and square leg as well. Gayle moved to 86 as early as the 17th over with another long-on six off Trego and a century seemed imminent. It wasn't to be, though, for Thomas induced a top edge off a pull that was held by Arul Suppiah at deep midwicket.
Useful contributions from Mayank Agarwal and Arun Karthik, who replaced Mohammad Kaif for this match and hit a six in the final over, took the Royal Challengers past 200.
Even though Somerset were faced with the most daunting chase of the competition, Trego was not about to give up. He had been hit for 50 runs in three overs and he wanted to return the punishment. Trego and Craig Kieswetter gave the innings a powerful start, adding 42 in 4.1 overs before Kieswetter was dismissed. He had charged to attack Vettori and edged to the wicketkeeper Karthik.
van der Merwe entered and dispatched his second ball, from Vettori, into the stands at midwicket. The third, he skied straight up in the air and Karthik held his second catch.
Somerset were not done yet though. Trego took charge of the chase and in the tenth over, bowled by Gayle, he ransacked 23 out of 24 runs, hitting two sixes and two fours. Somerset went past 100 in that over, earlier than the Royal Challengers had. Trego went past 50 by cutting Vettori for four off his 31st delivery, just as quick as Gayle.
Trego, however, had little support from his team-mates and, as wickets fell at one end, the asking-rate soared to 16 by the 15th over. When it touched 19 for the first time, Trego lashed at Raju Bhatkal and skied a catch to Vettori at mid-off. Somerset's chase was over.