Chris Gayle was kept quiet in the last two matches Royal Challengers Bangalore played in the Pepsi Indian Premier League 2013 but broke the shackles with an unbeaten 50-ball 85 on Thursday (April 11) to send Kolkata Knight Riders, the defending champions, crashing to a second consecutive defeat.
Gayle struck four fours and nine sixes in his innings, with Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers chipping in with 35 and 22 not out respectively, as Bangalore won by eight wickets. Gautam Gambhir's knock of 59 went in vain as Kolkata's score of 154 proved insufficient. (Also read: No boundary too big for Gayle, says Kohli)
After winning the toss, Kohli didn't hesitate in inserting Kolkata in on a pitch with a slight smattering of green. The decision was vindicated immediately as Moises Henriques had Manvinder Bisla caught at point by debutant KL Rahul in the very first over. The next over nearly resulted in a second wicket as Gambhir charged down the wicket only to find his partner Jacques Kallis uninterested in sneaking a quick single. Kohli missed the stumps and was left to rue about what could have been as the duo proceeded to steady Kolkata's innings.
While Gambhir offered Bangalore a few more chances to run him out, he appeared largely in control, treating Muttiah Muralitharan with almost casual indifference.
When Kallis departed for 16, Yusuf Pathan strode in, looking determined to turn the corner regarding his lack of form. Three consecutive boundaries off Vinay Kumar suggested more than the cameo of 27 he was eventually dismissed for. (Related read: The stats from the match)
Bangalore's backroom staff would have, no doubt, discussed Gambhir's sparkling 51-ball 93 against them on the same ground last year. Although Gambhir had dismissed talk of "things I've done one year back" on the eve of the match, history seemed set to repeat. However, he was eventually dismissed for a 46-ball 59, caught and bowled by Vinay, and immediately, Bangalore looked a more energised outfit. (Match in pics)
Kolkata lost their next four wickets for 29 runs and had to be content with 154. RP Singh bowled a tidy four-over spell for 27 runs, snaring three wickets, including the dangerous Eoin Morgan for two runs. Though Vinay was slightly more expensive, taking 2 for 36, his wickets allowed Bangalore a reprieve for their muffs earlier in the day.
Bangalore, in response, lost Mayank Agarwal for six to Ryan McLaren early on, but for the crowd that was a non-issue as it brought Kohli and Gayle together. Kolkata managed to keep things quiet in the middle, giving Sunil Narine a bowl after a maiden over from Kallis, but it was only for a brief while. While Kohli struck two fours off McLaren, Gayle didn't even bother with the niceties and sent the ball soaring into the stands twice.
Gambhir turned to Pradeep Sangwan, brought in place of Laxmi Ratan Shukla, but that only allowed Kohli to strike two sixes of his own. Gambhir tossed the ball to Laxmipathy Balaji next and he gave Kolkata the respite they were searching for, dismissing Kohli for a 27-ball 35. The tension began to bubble as the two captains were seen furiously walking towards each other seconds later and exchanging words, forcing fielders to intervene. (Read report here. Also check the photo gallery)
De Villiers came in next and looked a bit rusty, flashing and missing the ball. He, sensibly, decided to get himself off the strike and let Gayle hit the boundaries. Gayle, much to the disappointment of Kolkata, was in the mood to oblige. Manoj Tiwary then dropped de Villiers, batting on seven, off Balaji to send the crowd into further frenzy.
Kallis, who had bowed a neat spell earlier, was brought back into the attack but it no longer mattered. Gayle hit consecutive boundaries as Kolkata wilted, bowling extras to a man who hardly required such generosity. With three runs required off 16 balls, Gayle finished it off with a six to give Bangalore their third consecutive win at home.