Kolkata: Every once in a while, the IPL throws up matches in which the performance of an individual renders the contest between two teams superficial. When Royal Challengers Bangalore travelled to Kolkata to take on the Knight Riders, they were at the receiving end of such a performance. Gautam Gambhir, the Kolkata captain, authored an innings that transcended the conditions and the pitch to give Kolkata a 47-run win that not only put them second on the points table, but also boosted their net run rate considerably.
Gambhir looked in prime touch from the start, and the first ball he faced went racing to the point boundary. The only jittery moments in his innings came right after, when he was dropped twice in the space of the next four deliveries. Both were difficult chances, with Harshal Patel and Chris Gayle diving, but failing to hold on to the ball. Those chances apart, Gambhir's bat seemed to consist of only the sweet spot. In the initial overs, he single-handedly kept the run-rate healthy, while Brendon McCullum struggled to get his timing and placement right.
After the power-play overs, Kolkata were 46 for 0 in spite of McCullum having scored just 11 from 20 balls faced. He eventually fell with the score on 95 in the 11th over, but that didn't bring any respite for Bangalore. Gambhir continued to smash the bowlers, and Kallis carted some huge sixes. Gambhir was unfortunate to miss out on a deserved century, falling for 93 off 51, but the total that his team got was an imposing 190 for 4.
Even with the Eden Gardens' history of being a difficult track to bowl on, the match was still open at the break given Bangalore's power-packed batting line-up. Six overs into Bangalore's innings though, the only point of interest was what the margin of defeat would be. Tillakaratne Dilshan had fallen in the first over, but the killer blow was struck by Jacques Kallis who got Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers off successive balls in the sixth over, leaving Bangalore 34 for 3.
Chris Gayle was the only man left standing, but this was one battle that even he couldn't win. Even a dropped catch - when four men converged on a mis-timed shot - didn't derail Kolkata. Gayle did get to a half-century, but it was a slow one by his and the required run-rate standards. That only served to illustrate how special Gambhir's innings had been on a pitch that no other batsman could completely master.
Story first published on: Saturday, 28 April 2012 23:35 IST