Delhi Daredevils cricketer Kevin Pietersen (2-L) celebrates with teammates after defeating Mumbai Indians during their IPL Twenty20 cricket match at the Ferozshah Kotla stadium in New Delhi. Delhi Daredevils won by 37 runs. AFP Photo/Manan Vatsyayana
If you have sealed a play-off berth with two matches to spare in the league stage, one can relax a bit - at least physically. So, Virender Sehwag deservedly took a sick leave and Morne Morkel decided to cool his heels as Delhi Daredevils took on Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Ferozshah Kotla on Thursday.
And though the home team playing their last match of the season in New Delhi sans these stars, it came as a dampener for the crowd, which again turned up in numbers. There was no dearth of ingredients that was poised to make this duel a real potboiler. Not when you have a man named Chris Gayle in town.
Up, up and away
If Delhi had the luxury of a comfort pad, things were drastically opposite for the Bangalore outfit. Placed sixth with 15 point, the equation was simple to keep them afloat in the tourney - a win, and nothing else. And so, a special innings from the special man.
Bangalore needed all the interventions from the powers in the heavens. Instead, it was Mahela Jayawardene - leading the team in Viru's absence - who was seen gaping at the sky more often than not. And no, he wasn't praying. When someone hits seven sixes in a match, the ball is bound to spend more time in air than on the greens.
Gayle was destructive, to say the least. Making a mincemeat of every bowling option that Jayawardene had, Gayle got to his century in 53 balls - in which the latter half of the runs coming in just 16 balls, making it possibly the fastest 50 runs ever.
The orange cap, that has seen changing hands between him, Ajinkya Rahane and Sehwag a few times this season, now sits tight on the Jamaican's head. With 706 runs in his kitty, the nearest competitor, KKR's Gautam Gambhir, would require an epic innings of 150 to take it away.
It was also Delhi boy Virat Kohli's turn to party at home. Hitting a fluent 73 off 53 balls, he rallied around Gayle. And by the time they returned unbeaten after a mammoth 204 partnership, the duo had well placed the game out of Delhi's hands. Unless, of course, someone was to emerge as a bigger hero on this day.