Even since they signed him as a replacement player during the last edition of the IPL, Royal Challengers Bangalore have been touted as a 'one-man army'. Riding on Chris Gayle's lusty hitting, the Bangalore team had made it to the final of the previous edition.
On Tuesday, even though Virat Kohli perished attempting to up the scoring rate --- with the Challengers requiring 111 runs off 49 balls to overhaul the Pune Warriors' 182 for six ---- Sourav Ganguly was still not too comfortable. Reason: Gayle was still at the crease.
The West Indian started giving Ganguly nightmares immediately after Kohli's departure. An uppish drive off the next ball raced past bowler Angelo Mathews to the long-off boundary. The next five balls turned the complexion of the match. A contest, which had started looking lop-sided, suddenly seemed like going to the wire.With Ganguly bringing in medium-pacer Bhuvaneshwar Kumar in place of left-arm spinner Murali Kartik in the playing eleven, leggie Rahul Sharma was the lone spinner left for the Warriors. Sensing that the match was going out of RCB's hands, Gayle attacked Sharma ferociously. Five deliveries in the 13th over sailed to various corners of the Chinnaswamy Stadium, bringing the home team back into the match.
Gayle force hit Sharma, and the Warriors, so badly that all five hits --- over long-off, deep mid-wicket, straight over the bowler's head, long-on and deep square-leg, respectively --- turned fielders in the deep into mere spectators. In fact, the fourth hit --- the biggest of the lot --- narrowly missed injuring a female spectator on the top-most tier of the stands .
Gayle's blitzkrieg reminded one of the punishment Yuvraj Singh had meted out to England's Dimitri Mascarenhas during an ODI at The Oval in 2007. There was no question of bringing Sharma back into the attack.
Ashish Nehra restored some sanity in the Warriors’ camp when, in the 16th over, he bowled a perfect yorker that crashed into Gayle's stumps. AB de Villiers then took over combining orthodoxy with innovation guiding RCB to victory.