Ever since the Indian Premier League's fifth edition began, the Pune locals were craving to see a local player excel at the plush-new cricket stadium on the outskirts of the city. So what if it worked against their home team, the fans' wish came true on Friday as Zaheer Khan sealed the deal for
Royal Challengers Bangalore in the first over of the second innings.
Once Chris Gayle and Tillakaratne Dilshan helped the Royal Challengers Bangalore put 173 for three on the board all RCB needed to do was stop the Warriors from getting off to a flying start. And Zaheer, whose family has been based here for almost a decade now, did just that as he got rid of Mohnish Mishra, playing his first game of the season, and Manish Pandey with two incoming gems in three balls.
Despite Robin Uthappa's entertaining knock in the middle, the Warriors never looked in the game from then on, succumbing to a 35-run loss, their seventh successive defeat. However, despite their local boy's success, the focus remained on one man who finally preferred to be on the sidelines rather than on the field.
Just as the Pune Warriors India took their strategic time out after the seventh over of the innings against the Royal Challengers Bangalore on Friday, mentor Sourav Ganguly ran in from the dug out and had a long discussion with captain Steve Smith.
One didn't need to be an astrologer or a telepathist to know the topic of discussion. With Chris Gayle looking set to take the game away from their team with his trademark blitzkrieg, the duo came up with a plan to stop the Gayle gala.
And even though the strategy seemed to work as Angelo Mathews got rid of the danger man nine balls after resumption of play, the damage had already been done.
If Gayle's onslaught in Bangalore against the same opposition last month paved way for RCB's resurgence and Pune's downfall in the tournament, the Jamaican single-handedly took the game away from the hosts with his brute power.
If Rahul Sharma bore the brunt in Bangalore, as the leggie was hit for five sixes in an over, it was the 'pace' duo of Krishnakant Upadhyay and Bhuvneshwar Kumar who were at the receiving end on Friday. With a sudden cloudburst delaying the start of the match by an hour, the conditions were conducive for pace bowlers.
However, Gayle first sent IPL debutant Upadhyay into the stands twice in the third over and then in the sixth over, he hit four sixes off Bhuvneshwar, including three successive strikes on either side of the wicket.
The last of those four sixes, the only one over long-off, meant Gayle had completed his seventh fifth of the season at the end of the sixth over.
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