Chris Gayle finally turned back the clock to join the run riot. He missed out on a well-deserved half-century but kept Royal Challengers Bangalore’s playoff chances alive with a swashbuckling innings on Monday.
It again allowed Virat Kohli to play second fiddle at the start till he became unstoppable, leaving the Knight Riders clueless. And with AB de Villiers too going strong, the RCB captain had no problem making mincemeat of what is considered quite a big total at the Eden Gardens, sealing a nine-wicket victory.
With all the talk of when Gayle would finally live up to the expectations this IPL, the Jamaican couldn’t have chosen a more fitting venue to show that he hadn’t forgotten his ways.
Once KKR’s own, Gayle has a special liking for Eden Gardens. The last time he batted here, in 2015, Gayle had scored 96 off 56 balls. He also has an unbeaten century here. Needing to win every match, Gayle got RCB going by first laying into Morne Morkel with two successive boundaries before bludgeoning fellow Jamaican Andre Russell for consecutive sixes in the next over.
Spinners have been KKR’s pride at Eden Gardens but Gayle showed little regard for that when he took the sting out of Sunil Narine by hitting him for two boundaries in the fifth over. It made Eden Gardens chant ‘RCB, RCB’. And when Piyush Chawla was hit over long-on for a six, KKR looked headed for trouble early into the chase. Narine finally had his revenge by trapping Gayle leg before but not before he had been muscled over cover for a huge six.
With the kind of form de Villiers has been in, it was always going to be difficult for KKR to stop the South African run-machine. But KKR captain Gautam Gambhir probably dropped the match when he spilled Kohli’s catch at point in the 11th over. RCB were at a crucial juncture then. If Gambhir had held on to that, it could have forced de Villiers to bat with more caution.
Instead, it was yet another stroll for the duo. There were two overs of lull when RCB looked to rotate the strike, only to be broken by a huge six by de Villiers off Shakib Al Hasan in the 13th over. Chawla again returned to be smacked for a six, this time by Kohli. Every over from there on saw at least a six or a boundary being hit. The rest were accounted for by brilliant running between the wickets. KKR were quickly batted out.
In hindsight, maybe KKR would have been served better had Gambhir batted longer. Maybe Russell or Shakib should have scored more. It wouldn’t have mattered, however. When Gayle decides to come to the party, RCB rarely lose.