Thirty-two runs, 43 balls, and less than an hour spent at the crease while batting in a total of eight innings. Those are Chris Gayle’s numbers during his lean run since his hundred in West Indies’ World T20 opener against England exactly two months ago. On a humid night at the Eden Gardens, he struck form against his former franchise to help Royal Challengers Bangalore stay alive in their hunt for the playoffs, with a nine-wicket win against Kolkata Knight Riders.
Royal Challengers’ top order made light work of the 184 target as Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers carried their stellar show from Bangalore to Kolkata, after Gayle’s 31-ball 49.
Kohli, Russell pick up injuries
Virat Kohli and Andre Russell picked up injuries during Royal Challengers’ nine-wicket win in Kolkata. In the 17th over of Knight Riders’ innings, Kohli split his webbing on his left hand when he ran in from deep cover to take a catch offered by Russell. He was off the field for an over before returning. “It’s a big split, my hand is starting to pain now, looks like I’ll get seven or eight stitches. I don’t mind even 10 stitches as long as we keep winning,” he said after the match.
Russell’s injury looked more serious and occurred towards the end of the match. Russell was bowling the 19th over when he tumbled for the third time in his follow through and had to be helped off the field after he injured his knee, according to the TV commentators.
Gayle trudged to 1 off seven balls before unleashing the big hits. He started with a swipe over mid-on for four in the second over, and treated the short balls thereafter with disdain. The upper cut, slaps the inside-out drive and even the fierce sweeps off Sunil Narine, something he’s not always known for, followed as he raced to 35 off 21. Amidst the carnage, Kohli exhibited one classical inside-out drive for six that showed that the Royal Challengers party was on at both ends, and only 11 people at the packed ground were not dancing to it.
Gayle was trapped lbw by Narine after he struck two more sixes, but that brought together Kohli and de Villiers. They were watchful at times but picked boundaries regularly. While de Villiers targeted Ankit Rajpoot and Shakib Al Hasan, who was repeatedly swept into the stands at deep square leg, Kohli picked runs against Andre Russell and Piyush Chawla.
Kohli, on 32, offered a rare chance off Shakib but Gautam Gambhir put it down at backward point in the 11th over, with Royal Challengers needing 90 off 56. But after two boundary-less overs against Shakib and Chawla, Kohli and de Villiers put their seat belts on. Kohli picked the wrong’uns, de Villiers used the crease against the three spinners, and sixes were struck on demand. Soon the equation read 40 from 24. End even though Gambhir changed his bowlers, the result remained unaffected.
Kohli sauntered to his eighth fifty-plus score of the tournament and de Villiers, more attacking of the two, registered his 28-ball half-century as the duo whittled down the target with eight balls to spare. Their unbeaten stand read 115 runs from 11.1 overs at a scoring rate of 10.29. Along the way, Kohli surpassed the Chris Gayle and Michael Hussey’s tally of 733 runs to become the highest run-scorer in an IPL season.
Knight Riders’ journey to 183 had been a bumpy ride, led first by the top order and then the lower order. Iqbal Abdulla, who replaced Varun Aaron, took a one-handed catch to dismiss Robin Uthappa in the third over. Gambhir and Pandey didn’t look perturbed though. While the captain relied more on nudges, Pandey’s big swings towards the midwicket region kept the fielders busy, as Knight Riders crossed fifty at the end of the Powerplay.
Just when they were hitting the pedal harder, Royal Challengers pulled things back with three wickets in 10 balls. Gambhir and Pandey fell just after crossing their fifties to allow Abdulla and Chahal to slow things down further. Yusuf Pathan, who made an unbeaten 29-ball 60 in a match-winning effort when the sides last met in Bangalore, was deceived in flight and was stumped for 6, while Suryakumar Yadav holed out to long-off. Knight Riders stumbled to 125 for 5.
The momentum switched sides again when Russell and Shakib got together. Shakib used more of leg-side swipes and Russell unfurled his commanding swings from deep in the crease to collect boundaries at will. Even though Shakib raced to 12 off his first four deliveries, he later took singles to give the strike to Russell, who targeted the quicks more to clear the ropes and scored a quickfire 39 off 19.
2015 Kashmir Despatch